With more than 28,000 followers and 493,000 likes, a TikTok page run by an anonymous MSU student has gone viral. This account is called Fake People @ Michigan State.
The posts are videos, usually taken from a high angle, of random individuals walking around campus or East Lansing with overlaid text telling a humorous, fake but relatively realistic story of what that character, so to speak, is doing.
“All of my time of being at MSU, I’ve kind of gathered a bunch of inside jokes on campus,” the account head said. “So like frat boys talking about a fantasy football draft — I really don’t relate much to that crowd, but I knew that that would be something people could be like ‘That’s funny.’ From there, it kinda just started building steam.”
One morning, zoology senior Bailey Walker said she was scrolling through this page because it was shared on Snapchat. What she did not expect was to see herself featured.
“I thought it was kinda weird at first that someone was just going around filming random people and making up a story for them, but then I saw that it was a trend, so I was like ‘Okay, it’s a little cool,’” Walker said.
This trend has spread. Many other universities have similar accounts but Walker was unaware of the MSU one prior to getting featured on it. Others are in the opposite boat—they follow closely, hoping to find themselves on the page.
“I know in my instance, I'm checking it at least once a day just on the off chance that I'm on it or my friends are on it,” law student Garrett Conway said. “I find that on days when the weather is a little cooler, I'm more inclined to walk to class on the off-chance (that I’ll be featured).”
The account head doesn’t know who wants to be featured and who is apathetic about it.
“I’m never trying to take these videos in an egregious way of like 'Oh, they look stupid,'” the account head said. “Someone literally just happens to be walking around the corner, I take a video and then I build up a fake persona.”
However, there is a bit of a formula as to how these fake personas are made.
“I’ll pick random frat or sorority or something, then I’ll pick a bar, and that’s kinda how it’ll be made,” the account head said. “And then sometimes, I'm like ‘Do I want to do my own personal inside jokes like out into the public?’ and it just depends on the video itself.”
Social relations and policy junior Samuel Schrodt was also featured on the page. His fake persona was Trent, a 21 year old who somehow got a Combo-X-Change even though he has not lived on campus for years.
“I think that they come up with the personas based off of the eye test,” Schrodt said. “They'll look at you, and they'll watch you walk, and they'll see what you're wearing, what you're doing, and then they'll come up with a name based off their perception of you.”
Elementary education freshman at Lansing Community College Helen Hamlin said stereotypes play a large role in this account.
“If they see a girl walking back with a dress, they'll say she came from a sorority party or a frat party,” Hamlin said. “If they see a bunch of guys in jerseys, they’ll say they’re gonna go to Conrad's and get beer and stuff.”
The account head is remaining anonymous but does reveal information here and there about their identity. For example, they revealed which apartment building they live in and that they were wearing lavender pants one day.
“I think it is someone who has a knowledge of the general perception of the generic college experience,” Conway said. “Someone who is very aware of trends, someone who has their finger on the pulse … It's definitely someone who pays attention to the things happening around them.”
Aside from trying to figure out who runs the account, some people are curious as to how the account is run.
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“It does make me wonder if there are multiple people running the account because a lot of the time, there are a bunch of different angles,” Conway said. “If it was just one person, I feel like that would take up a whole lot of time getting content.”
This TikTok page is quite new, only having existed since Sept. 7. The account head’s personal time as a creator is also new as they had never made a TikTok prior to creating this account.
“I was really stepping off into the deep end of not really knowing what I was doing,” the account head said. “That's why the first few can kind of feel really random. There’s spelling mistakes and cropping and formatting and all that stuff.”
Many people have commented on the page saying they are going to walk around where most of the videos are taken hoping to find themselves on the account soon. Hamlin tagged her friend and commented on one of the posts, “can we pls go find the cameraman at msu?”
They did walk around parts of campus and Grand River Avenue but were unsuccessful in this mission.
“I think it's really fun, like it's just a goofy light-hearted thing,” Hamlin said. “I think it can bring some joy to people on campus. It can be a fun thing to look forward to, and you and your friends can be walking and you can be like ‘Oh my goodness, is that the person?’”
Hamlin shared what her reaction would be if she one day woke up to herself on the account.
“It would just be fun to be on the account because it's not zoomed in on your face so you just see yourself walking by and then an obscure scenario about yourself, so it's fun,” Hamlin said.
Having been featured, Walker is unsure about what the major excitement of it really is.
“I think that it's a little silly just ‘cause it's just a 5-second TikTok,” Walker said. “You're not really going to get anything out of it. But I do think it's kind of cool to be like 'Oh, someone did this' and send it to your friends.”
Although this TikTok page was made as a joke following a trend, it can speak on a bigger picture of how others view college students or young adults in general.
“If you were to walk on campus and pick somebody out of a crowd, their experience relative to the things that the account is posting are going to be vastly different,” Conway said. “I think it is a reflection of how we look at ourselves, how we see others on campus and how we see ourselves fitting into that.”
Fake People @ Michigan State follows a current trend, but the account head wants everyone to know that it can have a more significant impact on the Spartan community.
“We're a community, and I think that the last two years have really disconnected the people on campus and if this is something that can connect people, even if it's a stupid little TikTok trend, I would love to maintain that.”
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