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Student Research Guide WQ24/ Effects of Tiktok's Short Form Algorithm

Student Research Guide for Library 201/ Mattie Jones

What is this Guide for?


TikTok's Short Form Algorithm: A Look at It's Effects in Teens

 This is a student created research guide for English 102 & Library 201 Learning community

The purpose of this guide is to explore TikTok, how it works, and how it captivates and  effects the teens who use it. 

The research thesis of this guide is to explore how TikTok's use of a personalized short form algorithm contributes to various psychological effects, such as mental health factors, differences in the motivations of its users, and differences in how its users perceive information. This guide also looks at the various features within TikTok that contribute to these effects, and discusses possible ways to mitigate these outcomes.  

The research questions addresses in this guide are:

  1. What are some of the specific psychological effects of TikTok?
  2. How is TikTok different from other platforms? 
  3. What features of TikTok attract teens? How do these features impact how they spend their time on the platform?
  4. Is TikTok doing anything to mitigate its effects on teens?
  5. What are the long term effects or solutions to these issues?  


With the increase of social media use, research is starting to be conducted on the effects of how it impacts its users and society at large. However, due to TikTok’s addictive use, research is just now focusing on the way TikTok’s short form content has contributed to various psychological effects in teens. This research paper investigates what negative psychological effects are prevalent in teens as a result of components of TikTok’s short form algorithm. The methodology used for this paper was a wide search of the established literature found in SVC databases, Google Scholar, the Pew Research Center, and Statista. The results and concluding paper indicated that there is a high addiction level to TikTok, and that its algorithm contributes greatly to these effects. It also shows how TikTok’s short form algorithm consists of artificial intelligence that personalizes content to each user’s interests, having impacts on the mental health, discerning of information, and the motivations of the teens and adolescents who use the platform. The research indicates specific political and societal reactions with the use of the platform to reach younger audiences, and concerns to mitigate political influence, misinformation, and disinformation on the platform. Implications would be that further research is needed to establish how TikTok’s algorithm will affect teens in the long-term, and focus on spreading awareness about how TikTok's algorithm works so that the negative effects it poses can be recognized and mitigated. 

Background Information

TikTok, launched in 2016 by Zhang Yiming, is a popular app that combines short-form videos. In 2017, it merged with another app called Musically after being acquired by ByteDance for $800 million (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica). Since 2021, a man named Shou Chew has been the CEO of TikTok. During the COVID-19 pandemic, TikTok gained significant traction, especially among teens. According to a statistic by Laura Ceci at Statista, TikTok saw a 180% growth in users aged fifteen to twenty-five after the pandemic (Ceci). TikTok stands out from other platforms due to its advanced personalized short-form algorithm which keeps viewers engaged. The addictive nature of short-form content has influenced other apps like Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram to incorporate similar features onto their platforms. 


Video, Graph, or Image


Video Caption: This video presents a 2023 interview with TikTok's CEO, Shou Chew, and issues surrounding TikTok. He discusses how TikTok is actively taking steps to mitigate addiction to the platform, provides context behind how the platform works, its relation to ongoing concerns of misinformation, and implications about the platform for the future. This resource is important to the topic because it provides a viewpoint of TikTok's side of the topic and how they are taking action to address the negative psychological effects their platform can cause on teens. 

Source citation:

Chew, Shou. "TikTok's CEO on its future- and what makes its algorithm different" Interview by Chris Anderson, TED, YouTube, Apr. 2023.

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