“‘Here’s How TikTok Saved My Life’: #Healthcare and #Medical TikToks as Public Health Announcement
#Medical TikToks as
SOCIAL MEDIA + SOCIETY 2020
lauren rouse | university of central florida
"HERE'S HOW TIKTOK SAVED MY LIFE"
PSA AND THE MEDIA
PSAs are messages in the public interest disseminated
without charge, with the objective of raising awareness of,
and changing public attitudes and behavior towards, a social
issue. Began in WWII in the US and UK at cinemas & theaters.
A PUBLIC HEALTH FORUM
Licensed medical doctors, especially those working in
Western countries like the United States, began taking to the
platform to educate users on medical issues like
vaccinations, vaping, and sexual/reproductive health.
TikTok saw “an 18 percent increase in downloads, and was
downloaded 2 million times between March 16 and 22
TIKTOK AS PSA Screengabs from @drleslie on TikTok
AFFORDANCES OF TIKTOK
ZHU ET AL. (2019)
"TikTok users prefer the presentation and format of micro-
videos to be correlated to their understanding of difficult
medical terms or jargons [...] [and that videos] can generate
health related information to impact others, marketers and
policy makers" (8, 10).
MUSIC & SOUND
Video from @hamstarz
TikTok provides both an accessible platform for users to
discuss and debate medical issues and allows for those in the
United States without health insurance, the ability to interact
and confer on medical issues and seek medical advice.
UNDERSTANDING & ATTENTION
Users like @alexgriswold or users who credit @drleslie with
helping them stop vaping, show that these PSAs on the platform
are helping them better understand medical issues and medical
jargon that may have been inacessible to them before.
CIRCULATION & DIGITAL RHETORIC
Social networking site users assemble and re-assemble ever-
shifting publics and engage in “poetic world-making” (Warner,
2002) through circulating popularized rhetorics. Though
scholars debate how much agency people have in these
circulation processes, activist campaigns have consistently
shown that people do retain some agency.
Video from @gloriagaynor
Lauren Rouse, MA