[9/27/21] – The Devious Licks Trend on TikTok

Tiktok rose to prominence as a place for viral sensations to find new audiences in 60-seconds or less. Millions of Americans joined others from around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic as they shared recipes, singing talents, and of course, dance moves. Most of the content on this site invites viewers and creators to compete in challenges. As the pandemic subsides and a return to life outside of the home resumes a new wave of challenge videos documenting a wide range of behaviors is emerging. One video trend has rattled schools as they attempt to resume in-class instruction. The Devious Licks Challenge has high school students competing over who can steal the most outlandish item from their school and/or damage school property beyond recognition. Tiktok is working to redirect and remove the content from their site stating that they do not promote or condone criminal activity. In this week’s Lecture Spark, we explore the social phenomena of the viral devious licks challenge through the lens of sociology paying close attention to how social forces drive attention seeking behaviors, white privilege and deviance, and the democratization of fame.

Key Concepts

KC1: Discuss how the social identity of an individual who violates a social norm directs the tone of the response and sanctions applied.

KC2: Explain the social consequences of the devious licks trend.

KC3: Understand how agents of socialization contribute to an individual’s likelihood for participating in deviant acts.



Discussion Questions

Why do some trends or challenges go viral when others do not? What is the push and pull factors surrounding a person’s decision to engage in a trend lick the “devious licks” challenge? Why might someone risk their freedom for fame? How do peer groups reinforce participation in the trend or challenge?

Why is this trend happening primarily in middle-class to upper-middle-class schools with a predominantly White population? How resilient are the reputations of Black and White students when they violate a social norm on campus? What are some social factors that contribute to the strength and durability of deviant labels placed on a Black and White student?

How does social media act as fertile ground for narcissism? What social group(s) are most susceptible to the allure of fame through being “discovered” on social media? Which agent(s) of socialization (e.g., peers, family, media, education) are most responsible for conveying supportive messages of using social media for self-promotion?

What should schools do to stop this activity? What sanctions are appropriate to place on students who steal and/or damage school property and then share video footage of it on social media? What incentives are appropriate to encourage students not to destroy their bathrooms? What alternative challenges could direct similar amounts of energy to productive activity?

What is the role of a private fully functioning bathroom for everyone on campus? What are the consequences of not being able to provide staff and students with access to working facilities? How might this trend challenge current norms surrounding privacy and security in school bathrooms, and elsewhere in society?


Social media, like Tiktok, act as a(n) _______ because it provides people with opportunities to interact with other people and ideas which then inform their perception of reality.

  1. normalizing force
  2. agent of socialization
  3. educational tool
  4. personality device

Some people are arrested when they are caught engaging in criminal behavior and the law that governs this social norm is an example of a(n) _______ intended to prevent people from engaging in the behavior.

  1. equalizer
  2. rule
  3. sanction
  4. deviant

Schools are intended to be a place where young people can be socialized into productive members of a society. From a functionalist perspective, intentional damage done to the building that compromises the ability for education to take place, the cause of this damage is referred to as a _______ because it disrupts the stability within the social institution.

  1. crime
  2. rupture
  3. disorganization
  4. dysfunction

Cover Image: iStock.com, 5./15 WEST

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