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

Front Public Health. 2021 Mar 16;9:641673. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2021.641673. eCollection 2021.


TikTok (in Chinese: DouYin; formerly known as musical.ly) currently represents one of the most successful Chinese social media applications in the world. Since its founding in September 2016, TikTok has seen widespread distribution, in particular, attracting young users to engage in viewing, creating, and commenting on "LipSync-Videos" on the app. Despite its success in terms of user numbers, psychological studies aiming at an understanding of TikTok use are scarce. This narrative review provides a comprehensive overview on the small empirical literature available thus far. In particular, insights from uses and gratification theory in the realm of TikTok are highlighted, and we also discuss aspects of the TikTok platform design. Given the many unexplored research questions related to TikTok use, it is high time to strengthen research efforts to better understand TikTok use and whether certain aspects of its use result in detrimental behavioral effects. In light of user characteristics of the TikTok platform, this research is highly relevant because TikTok users are often adolescents and therefore from a group of potentially vulnerable individuals.

Keywords: DouYin; TikTok; musical.ly; personality; problematic social media use; social media; social media addiction; uses and gratification.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Humans
  • Social Media*