TikTok users try the ‘pay off debt’ trend amid cost of living crisis

The new TikTokpay off debt” trend has creators post videos to crowdsource for themselves.

Thousands of videos have been uploaded to the platform to qualify for funds from the Creator Rewards program. According to Business Insider, the creators in the program must meet the following requirements: at least 10,000 followers and receive at least 100,000 views within the last month.

“They’re banding together against the big man, TikTok,” Viral Marketing Stars CEO Katya Varbanova explained to the outlet. “TikTok is this big billion-dollar corporation; let’s take its money.”

The trend was ushered into the mainstream after creator and medical student Jake Heisenburg went viral for figuring out how to game the Creator Program system. In his video, which garnered more than 22 million views, he shared his discovery with his fellow TikTok users

“So, I’ve done the math, and, apparently, in order for TikTok to pay off my student loans in one fell swoop, I would need 247 million people to watch this video for five seconds,” he explained, adding that to qualify for the funds he needed to make his video last at least one minute long. For the remainder of the clip, he ate from a bowl of cereal.

Below videos like Heisenburg’s, viewers are banding together and commenting below these “pay off debt” clips en masse to generate engagement so that the videos get boosted on the platform for more views.

“This would not be possible on Instagram, or Facebook, or YouTube,” Varbanova noted, adding that TikTok was essentially like GoFundMe “but instead of money, the currency is attention.”

“This is only something you can do on TikTok because of the unique TikTok algorithm,” she continued. “It prioritizes videos that have been proven to be watched all the way until the end by a group of people.”

Ultimately, the gamble paid off for Heisenburg, but not in the way he expected. Days later, he revealed to eager viewers that he earned only $4,200. He had previously revealed that his student loans amounted to the “low six figures.”

Although the number was “lower than we anticipated,” he explained that there were two factors - “qualified views and the RPM,” revenue per 1,000 views - that determined how much he would be awarded by the platform.

“That is more than I used to make at my old job in two months for one video,” he continued, grateful for what he described as a “borderline life-changing amount of money.”

He added, “I literally can’t put into words how appreciative I am and how crazy it is that this even happened to me.”

As the US cost of living crisis reaches a fever pitch, with the average household debt reportedly reaching an all-time high, people are getting creative and using tools like TikTok to generate revenue.