Audrey Kenyon / Daily Nexus

“I wanted to make these videos to maybe try and romanticize a little bit but also just document my last year.” 

Those are the words of fifth-year environmental studies major Liam Ereneta. He self-films, writes, produces and edits his own TikTok video series titled “This week in 20-something-hood.” 

Originally from Berkeley, California, Ereneta is a member of the UC Santa Barbara surf team (a skill picked up after moving to Isla Vista, in true UCSB fashion), a seasoned biker on the cycling team and an avid photographer in his free time. 

At the time this is being written, @liam.oce has over 14,000 followers and 225,900 likes overall on TikTok. And these numbers continue to rise, an indication that Ereneta’s growing platform isn’t slowing down anytime soon. He was even recently invited to join the TikTok Creativity Program Beta, a program that allows creators to get paid for their long-form videos. 

Behind the scenes of 20-something-hood

What started as a way to pass time before the school year began has now turned into a full-on passion project.

“This is technically my fifth year at UCSB. So, I was pretty anxious about moving back this fall,” Ereneta said. “I was just kind of worried about how my last year would go.”

To cope with his nerves about starting his final year in the fall, he decided to begin documenting his limited time left in I.V. 

“I know all my friends that I talked to this summer who graduated were like, ‘I’m so jealous that you get one more year in I.V.,’ so I was really just trying to embrace that,” he said.

Equipped with just his phone and a growing desire to write, Ereneta set out on creating his series, “This week in 20-something-hood.” The videos are visually stunning, allowing the viewer to take a glimpse into the life of a 20-something with shots of friends, clips of campus and biking and surfing reels compiled into an aesthetically pleasing experience. In each 60-second TikTok, the essence of UCSB and early adulthood is perfectly captured.

There is an element of spontaneity to his shots. 

“Most days of the week, I don’t necessarily wake up with a plan of what to film. I shoot things that I find beautiful or symmetrical in my everyday life,” he said.

Yet, Ereneta himself is rarely featured in his own videos. 

“When I’m not at UCSB, I feel way more comfortable shooting myself. If I set up the phone and then walk away to walk back past it, everybody knows exactly what I’m doing. It feels really embarrassing, even though I don’t think anyone actually cares,” Ereneta said.

He continued to discuss the intent of relatability in his work and how his minimized on-screen presence contributes to that. 

“If it’s someone who’s 20-something in New York or 20-something in London, they may be able to relate to it,” Ereneta said.

He also acknowledges his own limitations towards visual storytelling. 

“I think the video format is almost like a necessary evil. I think honestly, if I could just tell the stories and not have to do the visual component, it would almost be easier,” he said.

Ereneta’s TikTok profile picture is now a staple on For You Pages, with his account currently at 14,000 followers. Courtesy of Liam Ereneta

This is where his writing comes into play. Written and read by Ereneta himself, the narration details his observations and reflections gained from his week in 20-something-hood, along with advice from his lived experiences. 

He has a talent for taking the simple parts of life, such as cold refried bean burritos and Halloween decorations, and turning them into symbols of 21st-century youth, confusion and poeticism. 

His most popular video, which currently has 318,600 views and 55,200 likes, is a love letter to his roommate, Graham. The narration reads, “He bought me ice cream and wouldn’t let me pay him back, as he always does.” It’s this nuanced perspective and appreciation toward humanity that truly captures 20-something-hood. 

The storytelling is also incredibly personal, ranging from his journeys in biking, school and travel to his journey in mental health. His experience with therapy is a common topic in his writing, with one video starting with, “This week in 20-something-hood, it was my therapist’s turn to ghost me after she needed to reschedule. And I was totally happy with that, until I wasn’t.” This honest and raw acknowledgement of mental health is something rarely disclosed and often classified as taboo by most online creators. 

Ereneta’s divulgence is part of his goal to normalize the conversation surrounding mental health. 

“I felt really grateful in high school that I had friends who went to therapy and we talked about it a lot,” he said. “And I think that destigmatized it a lot for me, to be able to think about [therapy] as an option was really nice. Trying to do that for other people is where it comes from.”

This level of personalism sets Ereneta apart from the typical “week in the life” vlog format and is what has catapulted him to TikTok influencer fame. His comment section is full of praise, such as, “You manage to put into words how us 20-somethings feel right now. It’s so comforting,” TikTok user @kelseymdwyer said. “I simply love this perspective of the human experience and it fills me with joy to watch what you share pal,” TikTok user @collzzwithtwozz said.

Conversations with @blakeoftoday

Ereneta’s videos are heavily inspired by another creator on TikTok, Blake Kasemeier, known as @blakeoftoday on TikTok. Kasemeier is a seasoned writer, currently working as a creative director and had competed on poetry slam teams when he was a 20-something.

He had built a small platform on TikTok through video vignettes and meme videos. Yet, his now-viral video series, “This week in fatherhood,” documents his journey and revelations gained through being a dad. Shots of everyday parenthood life and poetic, self-written narration are combined to create thought-provoking content. 

The concept for the series was the product of combatting intense “blank-page syndrome,” as Kasemeier describes it, and a simple observation of his surroundings. 

“The first thing I came up with was, ‘What is a unit of time that is digestible,’ like, what happened this week as a dad,” he said.  

His first attempt at the prompt gained some traction. But, a couple months later, when Kasemeier found himself suffering from blank-page syndrome once again, he revisited the concept and received an overwhelmingly positive response. Following online encouragement to turn the prompt into a series, he began uploading “This week in fatherhood” videos on a weekly basis.

“It was a nice way for me as somebody who writes, somebody who makes stuff on the internet and somebody who’s a dad to be like, ‘I’m a person who tells stories on the internet. Once a week, one of those stories deals with being a dad,’” he said.

Currently at 181,900 followers and amassing over 8 million likes overall, Kasemeier is a bonafide influencer. As a longtime fan of Kasemeier, Ereneta had always aspired to create content similar to his. 

“I watched his videos for a while before I decided … I want to try doing my own spin on it,” Ereneta said. 

Borrowing elements such as the similar titles, video format, introspective narration and end-of-video reports, Kasemeier’s influence on Ereneta is clearly honored through his work. 

In every video caption and even his profile bio, Ereneta tags @blakeoftoday, a blatant attribution of credit. This consistent acknowledgement is what drew Kasemeier to Ereneta in the first place.

“It’s such an honor to be recognized at that level by someone,” Kasemeier said.

As he continued to view Ereneta’s regular uploads and witnessed his growing platform, Kasemeier was impressed.

“I was like, ‘Wow, these are really good.’ He’s a great writer,” Kasemeier said.

While the structure is similar, the main differences in each user’s content are the themes covered and audiences attracted. As a 40-year-old father of two kids, Kasemeier acknowledges that his videos are not relatable to a younger audience. Enter Ereneta, whose 20-something perspective captures a younger crowd, vocalizing feelings that are often unspoken.

20-somethings have found solace in Ereneta’s content, often leaving notes of appreciation in the comments section. Courtesy of @liam.oce on TikTok

“People find peace in what I do because they feel seen,” Kasemeier continued. “I think it’s so cool that for an audience that might not have that level of sincerity or earnestness, that they have someone like Ereneta who can deliver that to them.”

The two recently met up for a bike ride in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, an event documented on Ereneta’s video uploaded Nov. 20. While Kasemeier has met up with other creators in the past, this interaction was different due to the vulnerable and personal nature of both Kasemeier and Ereneta’s content.

“That level of vulnerability and exposure … there aren’t thousands and thousands of creators out there doing that,” Kasemeier said. “So it’s hard to find somebody to connect with about that stuff.”

Their unique video style has allowed Kasemeier to act as a mentor to Ereneta.

“I’m super stoked that we’re in contact. When I was doing what he was doing, I had no one to talk to — no one to be like, ‘Hey, this is really intense.’ So I’m stoked that Liam has somebody to talk to about that stuff,” Kasemeier said.

The chain of inspiration

In turn, Ereneta’s videos have inspired others as well. Leah Hetteberg, a second-year film and media studies and communication double major, was drawn to Ereneta’s content and his local I.V. appeal. She set out to start her own version of the series, hers being called “This week in Collegehood. 

Like Ereneta, Hetteberg, known as @leah.het on TikTok, documents cinematic moments from her week captured on a video camera. I.V. is a common character, featuring shots of the beach, acoustic guitar jams and campus buildings.

Her narration also leans on the more personal side, disclosing realizations and expressing vulnerability. 

“The messages behind it, I think, are like for me to practice getting my voice out there … but it’s also one medium for me to work on vulnerability and being more open about things like that,” Hetteberg said.

While her videos have not blown up to the degree of Ereneta’s, the two follow each other on TikTok. 

“We haven’t directly interacted … but he has seen them, which is really exciting to me because he’s like a celebrity in my head,” Hetteberg laughed.

Ereneta and Kasemeier commented on Hetteberg’s first video in her series, “This week in Collegehood,” showcasing the chain of inspiration and support from each creator. Courtesy of @leah.het on TikTok

Hetteberg utilizes her three main interests in film — cinematography, editing and writing — when creating her videos. 

“It’s kind of a mix of both my career, central passions and just a thing for my personal goals,” she said.

This expression of creativity and pursuit of passion is exactly what Ereneta hopes his videos inspire others to do.

“I would just hope that, like, it helps someone, like, get through their week or helps someone start that essay, start that article they’ve always wanted to write or make that song they’ve always wanted to write,” Ereneta said.

“At the end of the day, I just hope that it helps someone feel less alone,” he said. “Because I’ve been there. Hopefully, it inspires other people to tell their stories.”

Despite his newfound fame, Ereneta is filled with humility and gratitude. His virality continues to surprise him, something he never expected when starting out. 

“The response has just been incredible,” he said. “I feel so lucky and so humble that people like what I make.”

This appeared in the November 30th Daily Nexus printed edition