Article Review on “On the Psychology of TikTok Use: A First Glimpse From Empirical Findings”

EssayArticle Review
Mar 10, 2022

TikTok has become a popular mobile application for social media users. The application’s popularity has allowed it to influence the behavior of its users which can have significant effects on society. For this reason, experts have begun to conduct studies to assess the positive and negative effects of TikTok on human psychology. However, since the application came out in 2016, there have been only a few studies regarding the psychology of TikTok. To contribute to the topic’s discussion, authors Christian Montag, Haibo Yang, and Jon Elhai wrote the narrative review “ On the Psychology of TikTok Use: A First Glimpse From Empirical Findings ”. Their article discussed some of the existing literature regarding the psychology of TikTok and provided recommendations for future research. The article is a great narrative review, however, it contained formatting issues that made the content undesirable to read.

Article Summary

The article “On the Psychology of TikTok Use: A First Glimpse From Empirical Findings ” is a narrative review, meaning that the authors aim to describe the topic instead of providing new research data. The authors of the article, Montag, Yang, and Elhai, are members of universities and institutes related to psychology, guaranteeing that field professionals created the article. Since the article is a narrative review, most of its content included references to existing literature regarding social media use. The authors discussed the basic features and background of the TikTok application. Then, the rest of the article involved discussions regarding theories, such as The Gratification Theory and The Self-Determination Theory. To organize the article, the authors divided it into three separate paragraphs focusing on “Why”, “Who”, and “How” questions. In the article’s conclusion, the author summarized the article’s content and provided recommendations for future research.

Article’s Strengths

Credible Authors

One of the article’s strengths is the qualification of its authors, editors, and reviewers. The author Christian Montag has affiliations with the Department of Molecular Psychology, Institute of Psychology and Education, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany and The Clinical Hospital of Chengdu Brain Science Institute, MOE Key Lab for Neuroinformation, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu, China; author Haibo Lang is a member of the Faculty of Psychology in Tianjin Normal University, Academy of Psychology and Behavior, Tianjin, China; and author Jon Elhai is from the Department of Psychology and Department of Psychiatry in the University of Toledo (US-OH). These qualifications align with the article’s topic and ensure that the authors are knowledgeable in the field. Since the article is a narrative review, this also guarantees that the authors did not simply collect psychology literature from unreliable sources.

Significant Goals

The authors stated in their article that discussing the psychological effects of TikTok is important because of the vulnerability of its young users. While not providing new data to the discussion, the author aimed to contribute to the topic through the collection of existing studies and discussing their relevance. Since the social impact of the Internet  is undeniable in the modern age, these types of discussions are integral to better understanding society’s reaction to new technologies. TikTok is a highly popular application that has changed the behavior of many individuals and even provided careers for influencers and figures. Discussing the motivations and psychological effects of TikTok use is important not only to psychologists but to individuals that have dedicated their time to the application.

Comprehensive Background Section

The article’s background section is another one of its strengths as it provided a comprehensive description of the TikTok application. While TikTok(or any other topic)  is highly popular, an author should not assume that the readers are already knowledgeable about the topic. Some readers may view the article to learn more about the application’s features while some may be curious about social media psychology and not particularly on TikTok. The authors acknowledge this and provided a short three-paragraph long background section that described features, history, known effects, and issues regarding the topic. Reading this section will provide readers with sufficient background information to better understand the significance of the topic and TikTok’s current societal position.

Effective Description and Use of Literature

Since the article is a narrative review of existing literature, readers will expect discussions and citations of relevant studies. The article delivered on this part since the majority of the article’s content utilized citations and references to other researchers and studies. In the section “Why Do People Use TikTok?” the authors described the relevant theories regarding social media use and effectively answered the section’s premise. This particular section acts as the main body of the article since it contains the most relevant information along with lengthy discussions. Furthermore, readers will notice that the authors referenced 63 sources, most of which are from google scholar and other reliable resources . This indicates that the authors did their due diligence to collect reliable data and contribute to the topic’s discussion.

Article’s Weaknesses

Unnecessarily Long Paragraphs

One of the main problems of the article is the authors’ decision to write long paragraphs. One example of this is in the “Why Do People Use TikTok?” section where the authors discussed the Gratification Theory thoroughly with supporting literature. While this is integral in a narrative review, the thick blocks of paragraphs made the article undesirable to read, which for some readers, may affect their comprehension. The authors repeated this long paragraph format throughout the article, which while some may consider a consistent style, makes for visually unpleasing content. The authors should have found a way to divide the long paragraph into shorter and more comprehensible ones to assist the readers. This would make the reading process enjoyable and prevent losing the reader’s attention.

Unbalanced Discussions About Certain Topics

In the “Why Do People Use TikTok?” section, the authors attempted to provide a variety of theories regarding the motivation behind TikTok use. While the section included different theories, readers will notice that the discussion about The Gratification Theory is more extensive. Furthermore, the authors utilized the other theories as support for The Gratification Theory instead of describing their contributions to the discussion. This is an ineffective way to utilize some of the existing literature since the authors could have expounded the topics and provided more useful information. 

As mentioned earlier, the authors stated that their goal is to contribute to the discussion by providing a narrative review of existing studies. This should have included balanced discussions or, at least, a more varied format. The authors could have done this by creating specific subsections for each theory. For example, the “Why Do People Use TikTok?” section could have consisted of a Gratification Theory section, Self-Determination Theory section, and Social Impact Theory section. In this way, readers can easily identify the relevant theories and the authors could have discussed the different theories in a balanced way. However, this is a minor problem since the authors were still able to provide insights into other theories.

Informal Headings

One of the major problems of the article is the authors’ choice of section headings. The three body sections of the article are  “Why Do People Use TikTok?”, “Who Uses TikTok and Who Does Not?”, and “How Do People Use TikTok?”. While these headings are grammatically correct and acknowledge important questions, they sound informal and do not fit the scientific or academic approach of the article. These headings make the narrative review sound like a blog article instead of an academic paper. Instead, the authors should have opted to use headings, such as “User Motivations for TikTok Use” and “TikTok’s Target Audience”. Using these kinds of formal headings would have made the article sound more professional and academically affiliated.

The informal heading choice also caused issues in some sections, specifically in the “How Do People Use TikTok?” section. In this part, the heading implies that the section will answer the question of how users utilize TikTok’s features. However, the section answered this question in one sentence by referencing an earlier section. The rest of the section proceeded to discuss the effects of TikTok on its users. This made the heading inaccurate and negatively affected the paper’s quality. Since the rest of the section included the effects of TikTok use, the authors should have titled the section “Effects of TikTok” or another similar title to accurately indicate the information.

References in the Conclusion

Lastly, the article’s conclusion included citations and references which academics do not recommend. An article’s conclusion must summarize and provide a concluding testament regarding the topic. An author must avoid including new information and references in this section. For this article, the authors included numerical citations as well as a direct reference to one of the article’s figures. This made the conclusion section unnecessarily long and lack a conclusive tone. Furthermore, the authors should have avoided ending the paper with a sentence that refers back to a figure in the article since it forces readers to go back to a previous section. Alternatively, the reader may ignore the last sentence since they do not want to reread the other parts of the article.

It is also important to note that the section’s title is “Conclusion and Outlook” which indicates that it will contain not only the conclusion but the recommendations for future research. This may be a justification for the numerical citations in the section since they emphasize topics of discussion. However, separating the conclusion from the recommendation would have been a better choice since there will be a distinction between the two goals of each section. Despite this, the conclusion effectively summarized the article and provided a concluding overview that could compensate for the formatting issue.

Conclusion

The article “On the Psychology of TikTok Use: A First Glimpse From Empirical Findings” is a useful narrative review of the existing literature about TikTok and social media use. The credible qualifications of the authors, the article’s goals, and the comprehensive discussion about relevant topics establish the article as a useful academic resource. These strengths allowed the article to provide relevant information that can contribute to the ongoing discussion about social media use. However, the article’s formatting weaknesses can make it difficult for readers to maintain their interest. Weaknesses, like the inaccurate headings, may confuse some readers since they do not represent the correct information in certain sections. Still, the article’s main problems lie only in the formatting choice of the authors which some readers can overlook. “ On the Psychology of TikTok Use: A First Glimpse From Empirical Findings ” is a great narrative review that psychology students and professionals can utilize to increase their knowledge about the topic of TikTok and social media use.

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Reference List

Montag, C., Yang, H., & Elhai, J. (2021). On the Psychology of TikTok Use. A First Glimpse From Empirical Findings. Frontiers in Public Health. Available at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2021.641673/full. Accessed March 9, 2022.

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