For the Besties, it’s all about authenticity

Thanks to TikTok, three best friends at Penn State are spreading their wisdom on living one’s most authentic self.


Barstool Sports

Evan Mehalov, Ryan Manderbach, and Nick Roble have mastered the highs and lows at Happy Valley.

Kara Mihm, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Tongues out, hips popped, and wrists bent, the Besties of Penn State have slo-mo’d their way into the hearts of over 145,000 TikTok fans. 

Starting as a video journal to document the reality of college life, State College’s Ryan Manderbach wanted to make “digital footprints” of his memories to look back on during his first normal year following the chokehold of Covid. He initially posted the videos for one simple reason: to make his friends laugh.

“All of my friends would make fun of me for using the app at the time, but it was a great coping mechanism for my depression and anxiety. My expectations were in no way about likes or comments but that those who were close to me would love them,” Manderbach said in a recent interview with The Uproar.

Satirically calling his initial followers “besties,” the label has stuck. Now, 91 daily updates later and an introduction to two more official besties — Nick Roble and Evan Mehalov — the Penn State trio has scored an appearance on Pink’s TikTok and even a Barstool feature.

Barstool Sports

But let’s rewind to the fall of 2019, the humble beginnings of the bestie trinity when they started their freshman year at PSU.

Joking that Manderbach rejected him as a roommate, Mehalov reached out to Roble through the college’s Facebook group. The two found that they had a lot in common, especially their star sign compatibility. 

“Evan is a Leo, so he’s creative but very bold and assertive when he has to be. When someone needs to step up and say something it’s usually him, which I’m glad about because I hate being confrontational,” Nick told The Uproar.

As a Libra, Roble attests that their sign similarities and differences have led to humorous exchanges that leave the group in stitches. With a mix of both Libra and Leo energy, Manderbach’s Pisces presence is the final piece in their collective puzzle.

“We have an interesting dynamic because we are on completely different sides of the zodiac spectrum, but it somehow works out perfectly when all three of us come together,” Roble said.

Ryan Manderbach

Through TikTok’s personally curated “For You Page,” one like on their account will generate a consistent cycle of their content, fueling the group’s popularity on campus. 

“I honestly don’t think we ever expected to get swarmed here but it has happened a number of times,” Roble revealed. “The majority of the experiences I’ve had have been overwhelmingly positive, but having good conversations with people who come up to us outside of parties and games definitely beats getting swarmed.”

With a fan base that runs especially deep in their college town, knowing who they can and can’t trust might seem a little tricky. Manderbach admitted that they cannot always decipher the line between sincere or bogus interactions.

“Sometimes it does feel that way because we are approached so much,” he said. “Though I feel most people are genuine fans and aren’t pretending to be nice, there are times when it is pretty noticeable that they only want to talk to us because they see us on TikTok.”

Social media stardom certainly entails the sacrifice of privacy, but Manderbach cherishes the opportunity to present his genuine self on TikTok, as it has significantly helped with his anxiety.

“My digital footprint at this point is my life journey and I’ll never be ashamed of it,” ”

— Ryan Manderbach

“Honestly, if there is one thing that I hope people take away from [my videos], it’s being authentically yourself. No matter what, it will allow you to not only love yourself but also for others around you to be the most genuine people who truly care about you. My digital footprint at this point is my life journey and I’ll never be ashamed of it,” he said.

Quoting Lady Gage, Manderbach summed up his message to struggling teenagers who are searching for their identity: “Live for what you create and die protecting it.” 

To add fun to the realities of college lifes, the Bestie trio hopes to continue to positively use their platform for months to come, hopefully even after their years in Happy Valley. 

“I definitely think this is something we’re thinking about continuing after college, but we need to figure out how that would work with our content being very school-based,” Mehalov said.

For now, you can catch them on Tiktok (@Ryan_Manderbach) and join the Bestie Nation as it continues to grow beyond Penn State.