It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's the TikTok Ceiling Challenge — What Is It Exactly?

Yet another trend has taken the social media world by storm and all you need to participate is a phone, some tape, and absolutely no fear of slight heights.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Nov. 20 2023, Published 1:16 p.m. ET

The Gist:

  • Yet another wholesome TikTok trend is burning through social media.
  • It's called the ceiling challenge and all you need is a cell phone, tape, and a ceiling.
  • Just tape your phone to a ceiling and start recording whatever you want beneath it.
  • It was started by an aspiring young filmmaker named Josiah Lebante.
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Social media loves a challenge, and I don't mean the toxic corners that increasingly make it a less fun place to be. I'm actually referring to the trends that unite people rather than dividing them. I am no social media historian, but the first tend that comes to mind is the Ice Bucket Challenge. In July 2014, people on social media dumped buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness about Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS. They would then tag a friend, chain letter style.

From there, similar philanthropic trends emerged, but they soon morphed into more goofy endeavors. From mimicking the Wednesday Addams dance popularized by Jenna Ortega in Netflix's Wednesday, to the faux deadly Grimace Shake challenge, people are rising to these challenges. One that has taken TikTok by storm is the ceiling challenge, which sounds like a gravity-defying nightmare. Here's what we know about this viral craze.

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TikTok ceiling challenge
Source: TikTok/@samspedy (video stills)

From the windows, to the wall, to the ceiling.

What is up with the ceiling challenge on TikTok?

Before doing a deep dive into the ceiling challenge, I assumed it was going to be a clever trick to make it seem as if people were on their ceilings. I pictured that old Hollywood hack of turning a camera sideways, to make it look as if someone is hanging from a building when they are really just lying on the floor. It's actually a bit more literal than all that.

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The challenge involves someone taping their cell phone to a ceiling, then recording whatever they want on the floor as they look up at their phone's camera. Every video is accompanied by and excerpt from J.I.D's song Surround Sound. It's less an optical illusion and more of a desire to create a cinematic shot. People choose to do all sorts of things, though if you search for ceiling challenge on TikTok, a considerable amount of twerking videos pops up.

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Where did the ceiling challenge come from?

The person who claims ownership over the ceiling challenge is Josiah Lebante, who goes by @josiahlebante14 on TikTok. According to his TikTok bio, he's a "17-year-old aspiring filmmaker," which makes sense since this trend relies on an unorthodox camera angle. His first video dropped Sept. 8, 2023 and features Josiah affixing his cell phone to a ceiling and is followed by a video of him and his friends dancing beneath it.

In a followup TikTok from November 2023, Josiah took credit for the trend and explained how it came to be. While having lunch at school, Josiah told his pals that he had a new idea for a TikTok challenge. His goal was to create a top down shot which was inspired by one of his favorite filmmakers, Karl Shakur. "I really love his work," said Josiah.

Initially, everyone laughed at the idea, but Josiah was able to get his buddies on board with "posing and vibing" to Surround Sound. A month after uploading it to TikTok and Instagram, it went viral well beyond the Philippines where Josiah lives. "I'm just happy that everyone is doing it and being so, so creative," said Josiah.

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