Gen Z’s Spiritual Awakening on TikTok

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December 20, 2021

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(NEW YORK) – Halyna Krylyuk grew up in the Greek Orthodox community and has always been interested in spirituality.

These days, though, the 22-year-old doesn’t find her connection with a higher power in a church pew. It’s on TikTok.

“In the pandemic, TikTok affected my spirituality by giving me more knowledge about interpreting birth charts and different qualities of crystals,” Krylyuk told The Click. The Brooklyn resident is part of an ever growing group of young people who are using the popular platform to experiment with spirituality and New Age ideas. 

Like Krylyuk, other Gen Z-ers (those born between 1997 and 2012) are diving into TikTok for daily doses of healing sounds, manifestation tips, astrological guides, and tarot readings. Though New Age spirituality has been around since the ’70s and ’80s, it’s found a resurgence on this platform as it became widely accessible to the under-25 crowd with its short videos, repurposable sounds, and addictive “For You” content.

TikTok’s Spiritual Trends 

You can find a community for anything on TikTok: fitness, indoor plants, makeup, etc. It differs from other popular apps because of the younger age range of its users: 63% are between the ages of 10 and 29. While the pandemic shut us in and thrust us into an uncertainty we had collectively never experienced before, spiritual content on TikTok started circulating widely and had Gen Z in a chokehold. 

Manifesting, witchcraft, astrology, and tarot all became trending topics over the course of 2020. This rise of spirituality doesn’t come without shortcomings, though. The term “toxic spirituality” has circulated widely, claims of cultural appropriation have been frequent, and the virality of things like expensive crystals have left some people wondering how beneficial all of this could be.

Among the current popular subjects is “manifesting,” that New Agey term where you will something into existence by believing that it’s already true. In this Google Trends graph, it’s clear that these spiritual search terms all had spikes in 2020. 

A screenshot of a graph showing trending search terms from 2016 to 2021. [Credit: Google Trends]

On TikTok, the hashtag #Manifestation has 12 billion views as of Dec. 16.

One of the top “manifestation audios” (popular TikTok sound clips that users claim they can use to aid in their manifestation) is an affirmation created by user @fitsara. Over 379,000 videos have been created to the sound. Her original video has 45 million views and 6.1 million likes.

Another, the “Money Mantra” by user @kingsoon4774, has over 424.5K videos to his sound. His video has 17.6 million views and 3.7 million likes. 

A screenshot from user @fitsara’s most popular affirmation video. [Credit: Sara Fiorvento]

Thousands of users attest to the success of these audios and manifestation tactics. Others ridicule them for believing in “TikTok magic sounds.” 

Spiritual TikTokers on Their Goals and Achievements

Still, many who practice these manifestation techniques believe they are successful. TikTok creator @BlondeChile, whose real name is Shawn Owens, has 73.6K followers on the app. He said he manifested a successful content-creator career, new apartment, and a new life. He is now manifesting a modeling career.

Like others who spoke to The Click, he said the pandemic pushed him toward spirituality. “With the pandemic and the lockdown I was forced to look at myself in a different way,” the 25-year-old said. “I started to experience anxiety and wanted to go into hermit mode, but I evolved in a way that I needed to at that point in my life.” 

He made his TikTok account in October 2020, initially to spread his music. It became a spirituality-centered account because that was the content people most connected with, he said.

His first viral video was of him dancing to a trending song, with an added message about attracting a millionaire lifestyle.

“From that point on I started making content surrounding the way I affirm things to myself and really teaching the techniques that have helped me cultivate the life I dream of,” he said.

A screenshot from user @BlondeChile’s video demonstrating his success with manifesting. [Credit: Shawn Owens]

His techniques include an assortment of classic esoterica such as visualizing, scripting, meditating, and working with the moon phases. Visualizing and scripting entail either visualizing or writing out what your dreams and desires look like, and aligning yourself with the feeling that you have achieved them already. Spiritual TikTokers claim working with the moon can help your manifestations come true — for example, new moons are supposed to be great for setting intentions for the month, while full moons are good times to release what doesn’t serve you.

He appreciates the community he’s found on TikTok, and is grateful that he has helped so many people in their own personal lives. “I get a lot of messages from people saying how they’ve manifested their apartments, left toxic home situations, or acquired money,” he said. “Seeing that is a reminder that you’re doing something that’s truly helping people, and it motivates me to keep going.” 

However, he does acknowledge that TikTok spirituality has downsides. As a creator of color, he feels he has to work harder than his white counterparts to be successful. Creators of color allege that they often get shadowbanned, meaning their accounts aren’t banned or suspended, but for whatever reason the TikTok algorithm will just stop showing their videos on people’s “For You” pages.

“I wholeheartedly feel we have so many more obstacles to face,” Owens told The Click. “Our content isn’t pushed in the same way. I’ve been shadowbanned several times for reasons I can’t even say; I’ve never done anything against the guidelines. We’re put under a microscope as people of color, and it’s not fair.” 

While many TikTok creators have complained about shadowbanning, the platform has never officially confirmed the existence of the practice, according to a report by Refinery29.

Still, Owens continues to do what he does best: create content and engage with his followers. “My following and my community are truly a family and I feel like it’s an organic situation. I’ve made so many friends and beautiful connections just from sharing my life experience and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.” 

Reading the Cards

Another creator, Jonathan Diaz, also known as @tarotbyjohnny, has found great success in his niche: tarot. Like others, he did not know too much about spirituality pre-pandemic. “During that time is when I started to delve into tarot, spirit guides and crystals,” he said. “Now I actually do tarot as a full-time job and I absolutely love it! I wouldn’t have it any other way!” 

The 22-year-old started his tarot-reading account in September 2020. “I started it as a hobby, just to see how it would go, and I got a lot of popularity pretty fast. About one month in I had around 10K followers, and it kept growing from there.” He amassed 200K followers on his old account, but he said he had to abandon it because he got shadowbanned. His current active account has over 21K followers. 

He also admits TikTok isn’t perfect. “It has ups and downs when it comes to spirituality,” he said. “There’s a lot of misinformation constantly spreading, but there’s also a lot of creators that know exactly what they’re talking about and debunking the fakes. There’s also quite a few accounts that culturally appropriate and steal content from POC creators.” He agrees that it’s harder to gain traction as a POC creator. 

However, he said that his hard work earned him a regular clientele and many five-star reviews on his website. “Without TikTok I wouldn’t be doing tarot full time, I wouldn’t have met a bunch of amazing people and built strong relations with my clients and other readers,” he said. “TikTok has brought to light how uplifting spirituality can be.” 

It is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing, though; anyone can learn about different modalities of spirituality and just take whatever resonates with them. Some people, like Krylyuk, are wary of tarot because they don’t like to think that it predicts their future, while others use it more as a tool for reflection or guidance. 

TikTok Users Share Their Stories

Alex Aujero, another TikTok user, became spiritual during the pandemic. She is 27 years old and lives in Brooklyn. “TikTok got me started with my spiritual journey,” she said. “I never believed in manifestation, but I found myself at a very low point during the pandemic and found comfort in the spiritual side of TikTok. I really was putting a lot of faith into spirituality but it was borderline codependent.”

She has since withdrawn from the spiritual practices she relied on during the earlier pandemic stages, but still considers herself spiritual. 

Another user, 23-year-old Alessa St. Hope from the Bay Area in California, criticizes the trendiness of spirituality on TikTok for this same reason. She herself has been on a spiritual journey since 2016.

“Most people making this content don’t know what they’re talking about and got into it like a year ago,” she said. “They’re new to this and somewhat inexperienced. This isn’t just one thing that you learn about one time and totally understand it. It takes years of experience, cultivation, understanding, and life lessons.” She believes that a lot of the spiritual gurus on TikTok just want virality and clout, something other TikTok creators have mentioned. 

 Creator @poppycork, a spiritual healer, advises that TikTok users take everything they see with a grain of salt, as not everyone has good intentions.

“Just because somebody has crystals, an evil eye in their bio, or a tapestry on their wall doesn’t mean they are a reliable source for indigenous practices,” she said. “Some people take the time to seriously study and learn about different practices, but to have that taken, stolen and reworded for comments, likes, and followers is [the harm] I’m talking about. Go beyond TikTok to find what spirituality means for you.”

Gen Z-ers are coming at it with an open mind and a sense of empathy and compassion. Most people come to spirituality because they want to heal themselves and others. For most people, it brings a sense of community, purpose, and excitement.

Even though Aujero doesn’t keep the same spiritual practices she did in the beginning of the pandemic, she says it has been a positive influence overall. “I’m much more mindful of the energy I am putting out and receiving. I’m working to be a better person every day.”

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