TikTok: A Cycle of Comparison

TikTok: A Cycle of Comparison

Written by: Kayla Mitchell

The saying “comparison is the thief of joy” is more prominent than ever with the increased use of social media apps, one of them being TikTok.

Ever since TikToks release in 2016, young adults have been consumed with the addictive nature of the app. From dances to “get ready with me videos” to people demonstrating what they do in their daily life, TikTok seemingly has something for everyone. For me personally, I cannot remember a day where I didn’t go on TikTok at least twice a day, as well as going on it for longer than I had intended. However, when looking at popular creators on the app, constant comparison is an inevitable issue to be faced by many.

An issue specifically related to comparison that has become prominent is TikTok use and comparison as it relates to negative body image/body dissatisfaction. There have been many times that I have found myself watching videos on TikTok of young women and comparing my body to theirs, feeling inadequate due to the imperfections I see on myself. Even in groups with my friends, there are often comments such as “I wish I looked like that” or “I’m so jealous of her.”

Danielle Bissonette Mink and Dawn M. Szymanski from the Department of Psychology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, conducted a study (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S174014452200167X#preview-section-snippets) in which they sought out to examine the direct and indirect relations between the use of TikTok and overall body dissatisfaction. It is within this study that they measured TikTok use and its effect on body dissatisfaction by utilizing 778 female college students ranging from 18-29 years old.

The study concluded that “TikTok use is likely to be related to body dissatisfaction indirectly through upward appearance comparison and body surveillance operating in serial.” Something important to note is that it was found that women who are on TikTok more, are seeing popular users usually with unrealistic body standards, and by seeing this portrayed so often causes insecurities and feeling malcontent with yourself.

Another factor in looking at body dissatisfaction and TikTok use is in creating the videos themselves. After young women specifically viewing what the study calls “sexualized dance videos” and the amount of popularity those videos receive, there is an increase in intense analysis of one’s body. Many young adults crave validation and popularity and oftentimes recreate popular videos or use popular sounds they see on their “For You” page. If their videos do not gain traction or popularity like another video, this has proven to make body dissatisfaction more prominent in their daily life.

You are probably thinking is there any way to stop or slow down this cycle? Well, the answer is kind of. One way that the study has shown you can reduce this cycle of negative comparison is by increasing your media literacy. By having knowledge and understanding that social media is a “highlight reel” and more often than not showcases content that has been photoshopped and edited before posting, you are allowing yourself to build what they call “a protective factor” in the inevitable comparison cycle. With greater knowledge and awareness, you are allowing yourself to be more in tune with reality and not focus so much on the ideals that dominate the media.

On social media it is more common than not to see edited/photoshopped content, an algorithm of popular videos filled with people that fit a certain image of “beauty”, and to be caught in a loop of measuring your inherent worth as a person. By increasing social media literacy, limiting your screen time on TikTok, and being in tune with your personal values, we can reduce the amount of body dissatisfaction we experience as young women.

To increase social media literacy, begin to increase your overall awareness to some “warning signs” of edited content.If you view a video on TikTok, many times if any sort of filter was used it will be in the bottom left corner. Remind yourself that videos can be edited to be in any order or trim any unwanted clips out. Videos take multiple takes; if someone doesn’t like how they naturally look, they can easily wear different clothes or otherwise alter their appearance and record as many times as they desire.

Limit your screen time by putting a time limit on the TikTok app in your settings. Don’t be afraid to put your phone on, do not disturb so you are able to focus on other tasks. When with a group of people, hang up to hang out!!

Remind yourself that you are a collection of your personal values and passions. Spend more time doing things you love with people you care about than you do scrolling through TikTok. These are skills that will help you have a well rounded mindset throughout your life!

TikTok can be an addictive and seemingly negative place when caught in the cycle of comparison. If we as a society work together to increase our social media literacy and begin to post real, unedited content with no shame, we can reduce the overall body dissatisfaction occurring for all young women!