If you haven’t heard by now – firstly, where have you been?? – secondly, Ireland’s first TikTok house has arrived, and boy has it got people talking.

What’s a TikTok house you say? I’m assuming if you’re reading The College Tribune, you’re young and hip and know that it’s a bunch of online content creators living in one house and ‘influencing’ their audiences with videos of dancing, memes and whatnot.

The goal in mind for this is to pool resources, share creativity, increase audience size and attract brand deals. It’s all very modern, I know.

TikTok is a video sharing social media platform which has taken the world by storm in recent years, and Ireland is no different. Users of the platform tend to range between ages 12 and 25. At the start of August, ten content creators – or ‘influencers’ – moved into a house in South Dublin. The aim? To become Ireland’s first ever TikTeach. Jake Paul would be proud.

Formerly ‘The G.O.A.T House’ – meaning Greatest Of All Time – the newly renamed ‘GO House’ is home to some of Ireland’s up and coming online personalities.

The house has already made waves online, sparking a number of controversies amongst some of the tenants. I spoke to Thomas Arnold, recent UCD graduate and Co-Founder of the project, to find out what all the fuss is about.

Arnold and his Co-Founder of the house, Jake Browne, both came up with the idea back in June when the pair were seeking ways to grow their YouTube channels. They saw an Irish TikTok house as “the next big thing” and began work on making this dream a reality. Nine weeks later, ten social media influencers moved in together.

From College Vlogger to Content House Manager

On the same day as he moved into The GO House, Arnold graduated virtually from UCD. “The day of my graduation, instead of going to the [UCD] lake, I came here and started working.” Interviewing him on day 11 of their two-month stint in the house, it’s fair to say he’s been flat out so far.

Arnold has come a long way since he graduated school. He started a course in DCU but later dropped out and worked for a while. After finally getting into UCD, Arnold took advantage of the opportunities ahead – started a vlogging channel on YouTube, interned at Microsoft and started his own video production company (Fearless Media). He sees this project as a culmination of his college experiences.

Arnold is keen on working on what you enjoy. “I think you should just follow that, no matter where it takes you. For me I started doing vlogs, which morphed into a business, and that morphed into this thing – and I’m sure this will morph into something else.” Arnold stresses pursuing something that you love: “I just don’t want to turn around and be 35 and crying in by bed, in my silk pyjamas because I’m in [Arthur] Cox making 200k a year.”

So, how do they make their money?

The group of content creators range from age 18 through to their late twenties. So how do these Millennials and Gen-Zs make a living? Arnold and Browne paid the costs for the house rent up front with their savings and family help. “I don’t see a better way of showing that you believe in an idea, than putting it against your own pocket.” Arnold jokes about “getting into a bidding war with Matt Damon” on the first property they were looking to rent. Wild stuff.

The TikTok influencer is a relatively new kid on the block, with Arnold admitting that it’s “risky” for brands to get in involved.

Companies can sponsor things like videos from influencers, a branded room in the house, a wardrobe to highlight their latest clothing line, or support for upcoming company campaigns.

“Because we’re so hot in terms of attention, that’s good, but [brands] don’t know what the reaction is going to be like [online].” Arnold sees it as a new advertising medium, but businesses will have to take a leap of faith with investing in these young influencers.

The group hope to at least breakeven within their eight-week stay, but Arnold explains they are in talks with potential sponsors. He hints that if the group do well financially, Ireland’s first TikTok house may be here to stay to as late as Christmas.

Addressing concerns on making a loss from the project, Arnold responds: “If there was a scenario where we did lose money – which at the moment it’s not looking likely at all – it could always be a tax write-off for our other businesses. It’s not a major issue.”

Arnold explains that the project “isn’t a crazy money-making scheme,” but “because the costs are so fucking high,” the group need brand deals to keep afloat and further invest in their ventures. “I am fully prepared to walk away from this with a big loss, because it was so fun, but I don’t really want that to happen.”

Marty Leaves the Jungle

Since The GO House has been unleashed to the Irish people, there have been a number of controversies surrounding members of the household, sparking the early exit of one member.

DJ Martin ‘Marty’ Guilfoyle left the house after just 48 hours following social media backlash. The Spin 1038 presenter was subject to accusations of being a “predator” for moving in with 18 and 19-year-old girls, who are amongst the influencers.

Guilfoyle said in a statement online: “What’s really upset me are the suggestions that signing on for a work project with a group of adults was somehow weird or even predatory. […] I can take a slagging, but not everyone can, especially not to this extent.”

Arnold says the accusations, “spiralled out of control, to the extent that he was the number one trending topic in the country because of a few lies. […] I think the main benefit was that afterwards, he got a lot of support from his friends online, and it was sort of remedied in the end.”

Lack of Racial Diversity

There have been criticisms that the group has little racial diversity, and the group received further backlash by some regarding a TikTok which made light of this fact.

According to Arnold, he and Jake selected potential creators to join the house based on a “good work ethic”, a “good following” and “how enthused” the candidates were with the idea. He says they reached out to people of colour, different ethnicities, “not out of the sense of being a token person of colour just because they fit the criteria.” The house began with nine white people and one Latino.

“We’re not just going to bring someone in here for the sake of it. I think that was the sentiment that was put out online.” Arnold admits there are a diverse number of influencers around Ireland, “but just not with the criteria that we were laying down. I can’t bring someone in here with like six followers, and I’m also not going to do it just because they’re a person of colour. That in itself would be racist.”

On foot of Marty leaving the house, Arnold says that “if someone comes along that fits the bill, […] I’ve nothing against bringing somebody in as long as they’re a good fit.”

Spitting on the Poor People

In a house tour TikTok video, influencer Lauren Whelan went viral with a joke: “This is our gorgeous balcony. It makes it a lot easier for us to spit on all the poor people.”

“It was just a mistake,” says Arnold. “That line was taken out of context, she didn’t mean it. We’re all making so much content every day that stuff is going to slip through the cracks. […] It’s just the fact that everybody is paying attention to the house, [and their mistakes become amplified online]. […] Was it a poor taste in joke? Yes. Did she mean it? No. Has she learned from it? Yes. That’s the end of the story.”

What the public don’t see

“The future is uncertain,” Arnold concludes. “Not only for this house but for everybody. Any time you try something new, you’re always going to be met with criticism, and also inner challengers – which is the bit that nobody sees. I’ve definitely had cold sweats at night-time, I had a panic attack when the Marty situation was going down – there’s a lot of internal stuff that’s going on.”

Arnold stresses the importance of a support network when pursuing new ventures like The GO House. He sees a huge amount of work going on that the public don’t see: “For every public victory, there’s many private one’s that had to happen before that.”

Time will tell how successful our nine content creators will become following this two-month fiasco. They’ve certainly grabbed the attention of a generation, let’s wait and see what else they’ll do in their time in the limelight.

Conor Capplis – Senior Reporter

Photograph – Darragh O’Neill

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