On the night Shelby Renae first went viral on TikTok, she felt so giddy she could barely sleep. She'd spent the evening painting her nails, refreshing her phone between each finger - 20,000 views; 40,000 - and by the next morning, after her video crossed 3 million views, she decided it had changed her life.
She didn't really understand why it had done so well. The 16-second clip of her playing the video game "Fortnite" was funny, she thought - but not, like, millions-of-views funny. She wasn't a celebrity: She grew up in Idaho; her last job was at a pizza shop. But this was just how the world's most popular app worked. TikTok's algorithm had made her a star.