When you walk through the Diag, you’re prone to seeing some interesting things: people loitering and insisting that you join their church, groups of students chasing and feeding squirrels and the list goes on. One thing remains almost certain: If it’s sunny outside after a long day of classes, you’re almost sure to bump into Joseph Kim, TikTok interviewer. Or rather, he’ll find a way to bump into you.
Kim began doing his routine TikTok interviews very recently — just “a month ago” — and already he has amassed a total of 34,600 followers and 4 million likes on the social media app. His secret to such a rapid incline in viewer interaction?
“I publish everything,” he said in an interview with The Michigan Daily. “That’s my goal, every day. Make 100 videos a day.”
Kim will set a time for himself to go to the Diag and simply approach people. Questions he’s asked in the past are “What’s your biggest regret,” “What’s a piece of advice you’d give to college students,” or even just trivia-style questions.
Kim is 23 years old and is currently a graduate student at the University of Michigan studying violin performance. His violin career supersedes the one he has built on TikTok, but he believes the two are related “when you look at the bigger picture.”
Kim has been trying to take his own experiences and create something fun for students on campus. But sometimes, especially during his very first interview, it can be “awkward. Definitely awkward.”
Kim continued, “I don’t know if it’s a good thing to say, but if you’re famous, whatever you do, everyone’s gonna clap.” He hopes to one day put his own passion for violin on the internet, using the platform he has already created. But for now, he doesn’t think of TikTok as a concrete business venture: It’s an outlet.
“All day it’s like music, music, music,” Kim said; but TikTok interviewing helped him get out of his bubble and allowed him to put himself out there and refresh his mind.
When it comes to other people’s reactions, Kim doesn’t dream of making a big impact. “Only thing (is to) just have fun. I don’t really care that much what people think; I just want them to have fun.”
On campus, Kim never thought there was much to do for students: “Laundry, go to class, maybe hang out with friends,” he lists off. Kim wanted to provide some sort of excitement or entertainment for students. “You need the gossip!” he insisted. And what better place than the Diag?
Kim has learned to be more social through meeting so many people, but even so, he claimed, “Every time I try to start an interview, I get this anxiety. Even still, just a little bit.”
Kim decided it’s worth it in the end. “As I’m interviewing people, I’m going out and meeting people.” He considers this to be a valuable reward in comparison to the sacrifices he makes — a major time commitment and the loss of what he called a “social life.”
When asked what he does in his free time, Kim responded with, “The thing is, editing takes so long!” He went into a long-winded explanation about editing, discussing how he has to sync audio and video files on Final Cut Pro and add subtitles. “The less than a minute video … that I just uploaded took about 45 minutes to edit. I can’t really have a social life. You have to give up something; you can’t have everything.” This is a sacrifice that many people would be on the fence about, but Kim simply said, “I don’t really care what other people think.”
What Kim said leads to the obvious reality of working in social media, where every inch is swarming with opinions and hate comments alike. When asked if he deletes his hate comments, Kim said, “I heart them!” and laughed. “It’s like, thank you for taking time out of your life to even, you know, make a hate comment.” And of course, every hate comment boosts his view count and interaction.
“I think I’m pretty emotionally stable. So I think my personality really fits into dealing with hate comments, because,” he said again, “I don’t really care!”
As one could surmise, Joseph Kim would describe himself as free: “I hate being in a box, you know? Following the rules; I don’t like the rules. I want to break the rules.” And he continues to approach people “enjoying the peace” on the Diag, with no problem disturbing it. And typically, after speaking with a down-to-earth graduate student with a knack for listening, people have no complaints either.
As University of Michigan students shuffle through what Kim would consider a mindless barrage of daily responsibilities and tasks, you can depend on seeing Joseph Kim on a sunny late afternoon after 6 p.m.; after all, “that’s when the parking opens!”
Daily Arts Contributor Irena Tutunari can be reached at email@example.com.