Penn State Junior Uses TikTok Fame To Normalize College Experience
TikTok has become every college student’s main source of free time. With the app’s personalized “For You Page,” users can watch videos that are tailored by their liked videos. With infinite scrolls, you are bound to find new creators and videos every minute.
For Penn State junior Ryan Manderbach, TikTok created a connection that helped him find his way onto many timelines. No matter how many scrolls, Manderbach’s videos appeared time and time again. From there, he created consistent videos, but he also earned a significant following as a result of his welcoming content.
On September 5, Manderbach reached 100,000 followers on TikTok and more than 6.6 million likes. He is currently gaining followers as he posts videos that provide laughs and help normalize the college experience.
The TikTok that introduced Manderbach to stardom was made for simple laughs and inside jokes. Little did he know people would relate to him more than he predicted.
Many people see Manderbach around campus heading to classes or to club events. When Manderbach isn’t prepping his usual content, he’s studying as a political science and criminology major. He is focused on becoming a pre-law student and has a set plan of attending Penn State’s law school.
You can also catch him with the pre-law fraternity Phi Alpha Delta (PAD), Blue and White Society, State of State, and College Democrats. He also works as an RA.
“I’m never a person that wants to stick to one thing. Having a variety of things helps you come to appreciate a lot of different people on campus. It is the diversity aspect,” Manderbach said. “Why put yourself in one little hole when there are so many amazing people out there that are nothing like you? You can come to appreciate and respect so much when you are involved.”
Manderbach no longer wants college students to hold their opinions higher than their peers. He pointed out that Penn State is filled with college students “just trying to get by.” One of his goals is the stop the ideology of students setting certain standards above one another.
His ultimate goal is “to go into legislative law and make a difference in the world.” That is the exact purpose Manderbach said he is looking for.
“Penn State is known for [its] alumni connections and creating a difference. Something I want to be known for in the world is delivering kindness and giving back,” Manderbach said. “There is so much power and affecting lives by giving back. It is a privilege to be here at Penn State. Being here gives us the opportunity to return what has been given to you.”
Manderbach said he is determined to make a name for himself using kindness. He says he created his platform to be there for struggling students.
“I am here for you. I want to defend you and be your voice,” Manderbach said.
As Manderbach created his platform, he took the humor that most college students relate to and ran with it. As his posts started gaining traction, he stated he “had no idea what one post could do for one person.” Making a societal change within each video fit easily with his major, which meant that Manderbach did not have any urge to stop creating.
“Each video I make is 100% true. After coming back to college, no one wants to talk about the mental health aspects. Being lonely, having borderline anxiety and depression…” Manderbach said. “I took that and presented it in a relatable way.”
His focus was to never go viral, but it happened overnight. Today, he’ll receive messages from students across the country claiming how much he has helped individuals through their college experience. Manderbach reminisces on conversations with Evan Mehalov and Nick Roble — known in clips as Bestie Evan and Bestie Nick — about how surreal the entire experience is.
“I am still speechless when I talk about this. Evan always says, ‘Ride the rollercoaster and just be grateful,'” Manderbach said. “You never know when this ends. It is all about what you put out to people and doing good.”
Manderbach believes that his TikTok has really impacted freshmen who are new to campus. Coming to a school with more than 40,000 undergraduate students can be overwhelming, but Manderbach relieved some tension with his presence.
“Coming to Penn State, we are all about family. I do practice what I preach. I am all about the ‘We Are’ lifestyle, and I am so grateful the community found me on TikTok,” he said.
During Manderbach’s interview with Onward State, two fans came over to him and appeared starstruck that they could meet in real life. Manderbach fell into a rhythm of discussion and excitement with the two freshmen. He talked with them as if he had known them since his freshmen year.
“When I first saw your videos, I had no idea you came to Penn State. Seeing you here was a big surprise and it was so nice,” Sabrina Smith said.
When students returned back to campus, Manderbach couldn’t believe how crazy it was when people recognized him.
“I have had people scream, run up to me, snap a picture, and then run away,” Manderbach said.
No matter the different interactions, he appreciates each person he gets to meet. As he meets more people, the more he thinks about the future with his TikTok platform.
“I take TikTok day by day, but there are things planned in the mix. I do plan on doing things that have more purpose behind outreaching,” Manderbach said. “Podcasts within TikTok and promoting that, but it’ll be Penn State-based.”
Instead of promoting partying, binge-drinking, and occasionally sexist behavior, Manderbach believes there is more to offer at Penn State, especially through his platform. The podcast and TikTok content to come will still focus on “the besties,” but more college experiences and narratives, diversity resources, and more.
“I would love to plug the amazing Penn State community for supporting me and my besties, Evan and Nick,” Manderbach said. “I appreciate it, am overwhelmed with love, and take everything day by day.”
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About the Author
Our photographers were on hand to capture the sights of Penn State basketball’s return to Rec Hall.
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“I’ve just been super interested ever since that first year trying to grow my personal THON story, get more connections to it, help as many people as I can, and be that person [my mom] is for other people.”