Sophia Smith Galer has almost 500k followers on TikTokWikimedia Commons / Lukas Schulze

If you’ve been on TikTok at any point over the past few years, there’s a high likelihood you’ve watched some of Sophia Smith Galer’s videos. Both memorable and educational, Sophia’s content centres around sex education, language-based videos and general-interest news.

Having amassed over 490k followers on the app, her influence has been widely acknowledged – she’s been credited for changing the way in which traditional journalism interacts with social media. Alongside this, Sophia is a Senior News Reporter at Vice World News, and the author of “Losing It”, a book demystifying contemporary taboos around sex and relationships. It is clear that she has many strings to her bow, and, when we meet, she is just as passionate about the topics she is speaking about as she is online.

When Sophia started posting videos on TikTok in 2019, she was also working as a video journalist for the BBC. She noticed the trend of popularity for the app and realised that, “if one day I have to make [BBC videos] for TikTok, I need to know how it works.” Her first video landed her 1400 followers overnight, triggering the realisation that it could be a valuable resource: “I’ve never had such rapid positive feedback to a piece of content. So that’s why I did it and why I kept doing it.”

Though her perspective on the changing online space is what led her to post videos on TikTok in the first place, her employers were not on the same page. She recalls that “I was told I wasn’t allowed to put journalism on [TikTok]”, even though “there were lots of other BBC journalists at the time “TikTok-ing” and being encouraged to do so. I didn’t see why I couldn’t.”


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Having left the corporation, she tells me that her videos are now used in internal training at the BBC. “I don’t know what to make of that”, she says. She acknowledges the difference between traditional news organisations such as the BBC where “there’s always going to be a lot of debate” about these changes, and newer organisations such as her current company Vice, which has “understood vertical video storytelling from the get-go”.

Indeed, she sees the black-and-white judgement of different social media apps as “bizarre”. Misinformation is often brought up when criticising TikTok, but Sophia points out that “all social media platforms are well known” for spreading false information – it’s not just TikTok, but Twitter and Facebook (designated “good” platforms for journalists) which are called into question.

Sophia’s work often focuses on accurate and empowering sex education, something that is complicated when the TikTok algorithm can “hide” videos which mention certain explicit words and sexual terminology. When I ask how she responds to this obstacle, Sophia is instantly adamant that it is “deeply irritating” when trying to share “high quality, accurate sexual reproductive health information”.

Often, creators in this space face the decision of whether to censor some aspects in order for the video to be seen. Sophia tells me that “we want to diminish taboo and eliminate it. And if we’re censoring ourselves, it feels counterproductive”. Ultimately though, she feels that it is more important that the content is actually seen.

Sophia has gone further than TikTok in sharing sexual health information: in 2022 she published “Losing It”, a book focusing on the taboos around sex education. She was drawn to this area of research for both professional and personal reasons: looking at the long-term effects of a lack of sex education, it was clear that “there are many areas […] where access to health rights and justice when it comes to sex are not where they should be.”

“we don’t necessarily think we are victims of a system that’s failing us […] but the point is, someone needs to take responsibility.”

On a personal level, Sophia’s own experience at school of “out-of-date sex ed” in the late 2000s and early 2010s left her “completely unprepared […] for sex, gender and power dynamics.” When I add that this experience is probably something that many young people can relate to, she vehemently agrees: “why is it universal? And why are we not more angry about it?”

But what can be done about this sexual health crisis? Sophia argues that “we don’t necessarily think we are victims of a system that’s failing us […] but the point is, someone needs to take responsibility”. She points to the Department for Education, who promised £6 million to teachers in 2019 for sex education training, but only gave around half the amount – “so if you feel under-resourced, it’s not your fault”.

Sophia also has several projects underway to address this issue. Her work as a Visiting Fellow at Brown University focuses on creating resources to teach better online media literacy in schools, and she has recently launched a project to improve Wikipedia’s sexual reproductive health information across different languages.

It’s clear that the many facets of her work, from journalism and languages to the online space and sexual education, all culminate in her dedication to making lasting change; “I want to use my social media to make a longer term impact on the internet.”