TikTok is a funky little app that’s grown massive, the heir apparent to Vine and the clever evolution of Instagram and Snapchat.
It rewards the brisk and entertains the busy; videos are condensed down into easily digestible morsels, usually consisting of the latest trendy dances, bite-sized clips of comedy and ever-popular pet adoration.
You can swipe through 100 TikToks from the time it takes to sit down and eat your breakfast before your morning commute. The content is quick; the inspiration is limitless.
For Franklin native Kevin Townsel Jr., the platform is a pulpit.
Townsel Jr., who graduated from Centennial High School in 2020 and now plays soccer at Bethel University in McKenzie, Tenn., wanted to use TikTok at first as a way to get his name out and get attention, a common goal for those who flock to social media.
Now, he hopes to reach a flock of a different kind, using his TikTok account as a ministerial center and source of positivity to go along with the fun ways people use the website. As of now, Townsel Jr. has nearly 39,000 followers on his account and about 360,800 likes on his videos.
Townsel Jr. found the app while he was dating a girl his senior year of high school. The two would post things about relationship advice and saw their messages take off like wildfire for the TikTok audience. The profound reach he found in such a short time really spoke to the young content creator.
“It really put my name out there,” he recalls, “and I really started realizing that a lot of people were looking up to me.”
From there, Townsel Jr., inspired by the passing of a childhood friend, started sharing messages centered on his Christian faith.
“It took off really quick,” Townsel Jr. said. “Ever since then, I’ve just been trying to spread my voice, spread my opinion.”
TikTok has taken over as one of the dominant social media apps that young people use. Townsel Jr., 20, feels that those in his generation respond to how quickly you can post a video and how quickly it can be seen.
“On TikTok, you can post a video in five minutes, and over 20,000 people can see that,” he says. “It’s such a reliable social media outlet for so many people to connect with others very quickly, and you can see what’s going on around the world at a very fast rate.”
Indeed, TikTok is popular for socializing, laughing and entertaining, but Townsel Jr. said he wanted to push the boundaries for what was typically being done for folks his age.
“I wanted to be that person that was different,” he says. “I wanted to be someone who could voice their opinion or someone who could really try influencing or helping people who might need that extra step. ... I really went to TikTok because...that’s where all the kids were at, and your video can blow up so quick and you can reach so many people so fast and influence people you’ve never even met before.”
Townsel Jr. is something of a TikTok scientist. He’s got a content strategy down pat that’s helped him time exactly when people are checking the app and know what they want to hear.
“I might wait until maybe two or three o’clock, right when they get out of school,” Townsel Jr. says of when he might post a video. “One thing that goes through my head is, ‘OK, what have I been going through lately? What is one thing that I’ve been dealing with lately, or one thing that’s on the news that I know everyone’s talking about or one thing in particular that I know almost every kid is dealing with right now.’
“I take that into consideration,” he explains. “I think of, ‘OK...I might bring faith into it, I might bring a little bit of God into it, or I might even do a little 50-50, bring some faith into it and then bring some views and points just from, kind of, the world’s point of view, or my point of view.”
Whether it’s just what’s on his heart at that time or if it’s something that’s helped him grow, Townsel Jr. wants anyone to be able to relate with his videos, no matter of age or life experience. He said he wants a graspable message that can reach a wide audience.
After graduation, the Bethel student wants to go to nursing school in order to become a physical therapist. He also says he hopes to continue using any platform he can to share his faith and promote positivity.
He says he wants to still be “connected with TikTok and all the social medias I go on and still spread God’s love, God’s word and still spread my opinions and influence as much people as I can, people that look up to me.”
You can find Townsel Jr. at his TikTok account: @kevintownseljr