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  • Writer's pictureJiah Hwang

Review of "On the Psychology of TikTok Use: A First Glimpse From Empirical Findings"

By Jiah Hwang



Author's note

This article is a cumulation of other literary research that is split into 4 sections tackling the questions of "Why do People Use TikTok?," "Who Uses TikTok and Who Does Not?," "How do People Use TikTok?," and "Conclusions and Outlook." In this review, I will combine them into a concise summary answering the main question: What is the unvarnished impact of TikTok?


Key Terms/Concepts

There will be references to the five personalities in this review, so below are easy descriptions of each:

Extraversion correlates most with words of affirmation and physical touch.

Agreeableness can be thought of as the person who is most flexible for other people’s decisions.

Openness to Experience can be characterized as a risk-taker.

Conscientiousness can be described as the person who always seems very organized or put together.

Neuroticism avoids intimate relationships in fear of getting hurt, so this personality type is less likely to be open.


Summary

Tiktok is a Chinese app developed from Musical.ly, which was founded in September 2016 by Zhang Yiming. Beijing Bytedance Technology acquired the Musical.ly in November 2017 and renamed the app to TikTok. The potential pros and cons and TikTok are surrounded widely based on the age of the users, which, in China are 81.68% under 35 years old and 32.5% of the US users are 19 years old and younger. Some pros mentioned is that it can be a potential channel of information on health-relevant information, official government information, political discussions, educational content, and more. Yet, the many cons include the usage of e-cigarettes, exposure of locations, and more.


They bring up five main theories on why people may use TikTok despite these cons. The first is the gratification theory: "use of certain media can result in gratification of a person's needs (30), and only if relevant needs of a person are gratified by particular media, users will continue media use—here digital platform or social media use." Examples provided for this is one's drive to engage in TikTok in order to expand one's social network, seek fame, and express oneself creatively. The other is the satisfaction one may get from TikTok, which is in line with the other theory that the AI-generated "For You" page on the app, is what causes "addictive-like behavior" in its viewers. Social media apps have long created services that they hope to immersive the audience into a prolonged usage of the app, yet TikTok constantly generates new information tailored to each individual based on the data that AI immediately collects based on the videos "likes" and more. The last two theories are called the "Social Impact Theory" (SIT) and "Self-Determination Theory." (SDT) Both can help better understand TikTok usage but also needs to differentiate between active and passive use. According to SDT, motivated behavior while using TikTok should be high as the "platform enables users to feel competence, autonomy, and being connected with others" through its design of pushing notifications which can trigger FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).


As mentioned earlier, younger audiences tend to use the app more as they are less cautious of the potential risks of exposure. Furthermore, statistics suggest that more females engage in the app than males. As introduced in the key, the Big Five personalities may be correlated with who uses the app, as "[openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism were all linked to producing, participating, and consuming behavior on TikTok, with the exception of agreeableness only being linked to consuming behavior.]"


The features of the app contain viewing, creating, and interacting with one another's content, so psychological impacts of social comparison, the fear of missing out, and stunting self-identity development through imitation are regarded as areas of potential research. One specific example that may harm self-identity is when users imitate their idols in “LipSync-Videos."


Review

This article didn't include any experimentation or methodology as it was a review of many cumulative research papers. However, although that is what this site is for, the theme of the impact of TikTok is so broad it may take another website entirely to tackle every single research paper answering the question, therefore, I will be reviewing this summarization/review of the research papers surrounding this topic. Again, the separate categorization of the subquestions regarding the impact of TikTok made this easy to read, yet there seemed to be many repeating points in the answers of each question that made it feel like there only had to be two subquestions in the article. The article also didn't reach a solid conclusion and was slightly cryptic on many of the points made, with the phrase "requires more research" made on almost anything resembling a claim within the writing. If you look at the date of this, it is March 2021, and the height of TikTok was in 2020, with the COVID-19 lockdown. There may have been more concrete results if this review focused more on research articles centering on the differences in grades, self-esteem, and more of the adolescent users of the platform compared to before and after 2020 instead of a generalization of the time period.


Bibliography

Montag, Christian, et al. “On the Psychology of TikTok Use: A First Glimpse From Empirical Findings.” Frontiers in Public Health, vol. 9, Frontiers Media, Mar. 2021, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2021.641673.


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