SoHo shopping, espresso martinis and rooftop bars have all won recurring roles in the TikTok videos of New York City influencers. Over the past few months, some have been racking up hundreds of thousands of likes and millions of followers with glamorized, "day-in-the-life" videos.


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The ubiquitous one-minute glimpses of New York City life are hard to avoid, but for a generation of TikTokers who were born and raised in the city, the lavish meals, Times Square happenings and pricy shopping trips that play out in bite-sized clips don’t represent the city they have grown up in. The conflict has drawn pushback from natives and newcomers — especially as gentrification has priced out many of their neighbors and transformed the streets they grew up on.


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“We're not $8 coffees. We're not sunny days. We're not in Manhattan everyday, that’s for sure,” said Thalia Lloyd-Frontani, a 21-year-old from Bed-Stuy.

She's not an influencer, but is active on TikTok and said she's grown up seeing her neighborhood slowly gentrify. The videos give her a similar anxiety: Just like seeing a luxury high-rise change the shape of a familiar block, the videos are foreign to the reality she grew up in. That dissonance, Lloyd-Frontani said, is jarring.

“When you're doing that, you're encouraging that you are going to get this sweet lifestyle. This ‘oh wonderful feeling of just being in the city,’ when it is just like you're bombarding,” said Lloyd-Frontani.

Some experts say the feeling of bombardment is justified. Influencers can yield a lot of power in how cities continue to evolve.

“It’s not so much that social media platforms or influencers cause gentrification,” said Prof. Agnieszka Leszczynski, who studies how digital platforms intersect with people in major cities, at Western University in Canada, “but they can prime particular spaces for gentrification to occur or they can amplify gentrification that is already occurring in particular parts of the city.”

One study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found a “significant correlation between online influencer behavior … and effective rents of retail real estate” in New York City. Influencers are also starting to gain more direct partnerships with the city. NYC & Company, the city’s tourism agency, is working with TikTokers “to get them out and about in the City and supporting businesses across the five boroughs in a safe way.” The agency wouldn’t disclose if or what the content creators were being paid, or what neighborhoods they were being asked to endorse.


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Dutch de Carvalho, 25, who grew up and still lives in his childhood apartment in East Harlem, said he’s felt a lot of anxiety from the flood of content from more mainstream NYC TikTokers – especially as he watches many get sponsorship deals or promotional gigs to talk about the city.

“A lot of thinking like, ‘No this isn't what I grew up with and this isn't the neighborhood.’” he said, in describing his response to the trend. “I don't want people to think that this is what my neighborhood is.”

That’s why he said he’s been trying to make content that's an antidote to videos solely focused on curated Carrie Bradshaw outfits or getting reservations at exclusive restaurants.

De Carvalho now has 1.2 million followers. On TikTok, he goes to the post office, he frequents street carts, he nannies, he talks about the people he runs into. He said he’s not trying to attack other influencers, but rather cleanse the feeds for any other born-and-raised New Yorkers that are sick of these videos too.

The natives say they don’t want to discourage influencers from making videos about the Lower Manhattan spots they eat and drink at, or what they wore to ride a Citi Bike; they just want them to use their social capital and marketing prowess to highlight the New York they have always known.

“They'll say things like, ‘well how am I supposed to become a part of it, or I’m just showing my day today’ and it's like well — you should be asking those questions. You should be getting to know your neighbor,” said de Carvalho. “Instead of talking about the latest things you got from Amazon, talk about the things you got from the store down the block, because there is a store there for at least a period of time.”

But a remedy from the anxiety and alienation may need to go beyond just influencers highlighting ‘mom-and-pop shops’ or talking with neighbors. Leszczynski, the Western University professor, said the rise of the app-based economy has transformed how people view and live in cities.

“It’s the influencer culture but it’s also the platformization of housing…mobility platforms, short-term rental platforms, all intersect,” she said. “It’s a broader platformization of cities which is really changing how we experience cities.”