Why angry videos are so popular on TikTok

In theory, Kendra Matthies’ TikTok posts should be nothing but joy. Woman. Matthies, 24, is a bridal makeup artist. Think soft smoky eyes, perfectly airbrushed skin and rosy cheeks finished off with a gentle mist of setting spray. She has more than 760,000 followers on the platform.

But if you’re following her, or just added one of her videos algorithmically to your feed, chances are you’ve seen Ms. Matthies applying mascara or demonstrating how to blend concealer properly. You probably overheard her telling you a story. A highly dramatic story – typically featuring a bridezilla, a momzilla, a bridesmaid from hell, a weird uncle, or possibly even all four – picked up from her front row seat on those special (and stressful) days, weddings.

Woman. Matthies approaches her posts as if they were little telenovelas. She will play multiple characters and use TikTok filters to give herself different hairstyles and looks. Their stories rarely last just the length of a TikTok video. Instead, Mrs. Matthies, who lives in Owosso, Michigan, tends to end on a cliffhanger, causing her viewers to clamor for a second part in her comments section. And then she did What? She really said the? I would have slapped here!

On TikTok, this video genre is known as story-time content. Splitting a story into multiple parts is an effective engagement hack for TikTok creators on a platform where the goal is to hold eyes for as many seconds as possible. And stoking anger — giving viewers the thrill of a well-founded, second-hand irritation — seems like one, too.

Before she started posting stories, Ms. Matthies used TikTok primarily to share “funny little clips from my life,” she said in an interview. (She also found some viral hit posts about a particularly gluttonous pizza being sold at her father’s pizza shop.) But her audience’s excitement has transformed her reach. Her Storytime videos regularly garner hundreds of thousands of views; the most popular get millions.

She never intended to make this her business model, but after filming a short video in 2020 of an entire bridal party getting conjunctivitis — Ms. Matthies was solely responsible for the bride’s makeup, which she pointed out , didn’t get conjunctivitis – the viewers asked for more. Woman. Matthies committed. This video has since been viewed more than 3 million times. She monetizes her posts through TikTok’s Creator Fund, a pool of money the platform uses to compensate creators who meet certain criteria, such as being eligible. B. 100,000 views in the last 30 days. (She also occasionally posts sponsored ads.)

“Why do people watch reality shows? They want to watch it for the drama,” Ms. Matthies said of her videos. “You can’t imagine these things happening. And then they do it.”

Woman. Matthies takes detailed notes after each wedding and typically waits between six months and a year after an event to post stories so as not to offend her clients. (Other makeup artists have also started sending Ms. Matthies their own stories to tell.)

Ideally Mrs Matthies said she would prefer her content to be more positive. Recently she has tried to move from telling salacious stories to softer content, like modeling the budget-friendly decoration for her own upcoming wedding, but these do not receive the same attention.

“They tend to either get lost in the weirdness of TikTok’s algorithm or they just don’t get as much engagement from commenters,” she said.

Alice Marwick, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill whose research focuses on social media, said that the social media content that drives the most engagement on social media is “content that has some sort of emotional or effective response evokes people, whether it’s sexy or rude or angry.” The greater that emotional response, the more likely someone is to engage with or share the content that triggered it, said Ms. Marwick, 46 , added.

Woman. Matthies pointed out a related genre in which TikTok Artists layer audio recordings of another user’s unrelated, juicy story over a video of them demonstrating their craft, from makeup or pottery to intricate baking. “You have to do something to get people’s attention,” she said. “And unfortunately, drama seems to be the thing.”

Mallola Khalidi has set up a sideline for this purpose, recording the dramatic audio clips. Woman. Khalidi, a 26-year-old engineer from Tracy, California, frequently records posts from a Reddit community where users describe crazy situations and ask the internet to decide if they were wrong or not.

She has 3.2 million followers on the platform screaming out for her dramatic readings and opinions. Woman. Khalidi, like Ms. Matthies, uses sponsored posts and TikTok’s Creator Fund to monetize her content. A typical monthly payout from the fund can range from $500 to $1,200, she said.

“Once you get into that niche, you kind of get stuck,” Ms. Khalidi said, similarly describing the high appetite for anger from TikTok’s algorithm. “I would say 75 to 80 percent of my content is about that.”

But Ms. Khalidi doesn’t just rely on TikTok. To form. However, for Matthies, the platform is vital to her day-to-day work. She has already booked 30 weddings for 2023. She estimates that 90 percent of these brides found her through TikTok.

“It’s not like I want negativity to spread and everyone raise their blood pressure over a video,” she said, but “I have followers who tell me they haven’t seen my videos in weeks and then when they looked at my page saw i was posting all the time. There just wasn’t time for stories.”

In late November, Mrs. Matthies posted a video of him testing a new brand of mascara. The video cracked nearly 10,000 views.

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