Preprint / Version 1

Understanding Reactions to Affirmative Action on Tik Tok


  • Erica Jiang Horace Mann School


Tik Tok, Affirmative Action, Netnography


As a well-established social media platform, TikTok has the potential for users to share information and build communities of understanding and support. Especially amongst the younger generation that this affirmative action court case directly impacts, understanding and evaluating the information and narratives that social media feeds users can help Tik Tok users better form their own opinions and beliefs informed by videos, rather than entirely based on videos.

The purpose of this cross-sectional study is to describe TikTok content with the hashtag #affirmativeaction and investigate users’ emotional reactions to the court case. The top-20-liked videos that included the hashtag #affirmativeaction were analyzed and coded for the presence of content categories. Additionally, the top 20 comments to each video were viewed and coded for with sentiment analysis to determine the main sentiment of the comment out of 3 options: positive, neutral, or negative. To conduct the descriptive content analysis, the qualitative data analysis platform Atlas.ti was utilized. 

The collected data also helps to understand the general grievances and sentiments that are related to the court case. This illuminates the general stances of the younger generation who both make and receive Tik Tok content, allowing researchers to extract trends and predict how best to serve the younger population in the legal macrocosm. We were able to delineate what users were most worried about so that moving forward, our policymakers may stay informed on how best to represent these young voices that span cultural, socio-economic, and gender backgrounds.

Given the data, we were also able to interpret what types of videos garner the most expressive engagement. Whilst digital media communities are often beneficial to users sharing communal experiences and gaining support from each other, such echo chambers become dangerous if used for group polarization. In this way, we may learn about how communal groups are formed based on opinion and emotion, and how some of these groups may be mobilized to action given the type of content they interact with on social media platforms like Tik Tok.


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