From likes to life: TikTok's influence on the youth

Student thesis: Master Thesis and HD Thesis

  • Karina Grauleff Sørensen
  • Nanna Kirstine Hungeberg Andersen
4. term, Sociology, Master (Master Programme)
This master thesis examines the problem statement; How does TikTok shape its role and significance in teenagers' lives within their societal context, and how do teenagers critically engage with the app and its content? The study was conducted with the use of online ethnographic observation and group interviews with teenagers among 7th and 9th-grade, age group 13-16, totaling 21 participants from two schools. We have been exploring their TikTok usage patterns, perceptions of the platform, and experiences of online and offline communities. Analysis has been made through an adaptive approach in which we have used orienting concepts from Hartmut Rosa, Andreas Reckwitz, danah boyd and Richard Jenkins to answer the problem statement. The findings reveal that the participants spend an average of 2 hours and 15 minutes daily on TikTok, with girls exhibiting higher usage. They underestimate the significance of TikTok while displaying a reliance on its algorithmically curated short form content. The acceleration of content consumption on TikTok hinders the development of meaningful online communities, simultaneously making offline communities fleeting. The participants demonstrate conscious engagement with activities and products on TikTok but lack awareness of the extent of influence on their critical thinking skills. We introduce the term algorithmic curation to explore how curations have changed, and how this influences the "ForYou"-feature which can create a safety net that constrains exposure to challenging perspectives. The study also highlights the phenomenon of overload vortex; a concept which describes the over stimulating aspect in regarding the emotion of boredom, leading to passive agency among youth due to algorithmic manipulation. While the participants possess a weak understanding of algorithms, their strategies for critical thinking mainly rely on personal intuition, dismissing the need for scrutiny as TikTok is perceived purely as entertainment. This research emphasizes the importance of fostering algorithmic literacy and encouraging the cultivation of a critical mindset among youth. The study raises questions regarding the balance between youthful agency and the need for critical examination. Overall, TikTok emerges as a captivating yet alienating phenomenon in the context of acceleration, though
perceived by the participants as a respite.
Publication date23 Jun 2023
Number of pages86
ID: 532413843