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The Effects of TikTok on Well-being: An Experimental Study Among the Dutch Population

Former IDA student Arian Sarwary wrote his Master thesis under the supervision of Yasemin ErbaƟ and presented the topic at the graduation ceremony on September 24, 2022.

Background: Despite the immense popularity of the new social media platform TikTok, very little research exists on its potential effects on subjective well-being. Previous studies have found that passive engagement with social media often leads to decreases in well-being.
Method: Considering the predominantly passive nature of TikTok and the little research done to date, the current study sets out to assess the short-term effects that the content of the TikTok platform has on three measures of subjective well-being. The three measures of well-being included; Life Satisfaction, Positive and Negative Affect. The study used an online survey and employed a controlled between subject experimental design in a convenience sample of 41 participants (MAge=28.56, SD=11.90, 61% females) of which the majority had a TikTok account (n=23, 56.10%). Based on the literature the variables of Upwards Social Comparison, Fear of Missing Out, and Neuroticism were included as potential moderators.
Results: The main hierarchical regression analysis found no short-term effects of the presented TikTok videos on any of the three well-being measures. There were also no moderations present by any of the independent variables. An additional single moderator regression analysis did, however, find a weak effect of the TikTok videos on the decrease in positive affect.
Conclusion: Due to low power and limitations of an online survey the current study was not able to find any noteworthy short-term effects of TikTok content on well-being. Future studies are advised to conduct similar experiments in lab settings with larger samples who use their own TikTok accounts.

Keywords: Social Media, TikTok, Experiment, Well-being


Currently, Arian is a trainee at De Toekomst van Brabant where he works with data and information management within civic and social organizations.

Congratulations, Arian! We wish you the best of luck at De Toekomst van Brabant!

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