TikTok videos portraying a COVID-19 tests as disgusting or unpleasant tend to receive more attention and positive feedback, according to new research published in JMIR Public Health and Surveillance.
“Testing for COVID-19 is an important community mitigation strategy,” said Corey H. Basch, a professor of public health at William Paterson University and lead author of the new study.
“Given the widespread popularity and reach of TikTok, it’s important to assess the content of videos related to COVID-19 testing, as this could influence decisions made by viewers. This study documented the extent to which videos portrayed fear, disgust, anxiety, concern, and other negative attitudes toward COVID-19 tests.”
The researchers examined a sample of 100 TikTok videos that used the hashtag “#covidtesting.” Altogether, the videos garnered more than 103 million views, 111,000 comments, and 12.8 million likes. Despite dance being one of the most popular genres on the social media platform, only three of the videos included dancing. Only one video cited a scientifically credible source.
Forty-four videos suggested that COVID-19 tests were disgusting or unpleasant and these videos garnered more than 73 million views and 9 million likes.
“Social media is a popular source of information about health, including COVID-19 and testing information,” Basch told PsyPost. “In this study, mentioning or suggesting that COVID-19 tests are disgusting/unpleasant was associated with the number of TikTok views and likes. This suggests that these videos could potentially create and endorse an aversion to and avoidance of testing. It’s important for the public to understand the significance of testing and the fact that not all testing experiences are the same.”
But it is currently unclear what kind of impact TikTok is having on viewers. “Due to the design of the study, we cannot determine that watching videos portraying a testing as a disgusting/unpleasant process will prevent one from seeking testing,” Basch explained.
Nevertheless, the findings suggest that medical professionals should engage with platforms like TikTok to combat negative perceptions surrounding COVID-19 testing.
“Public health agencies should actively address the implications of negatively themed COVID-19 testing videos on social media,” Basch said. “This study of popular videos on TikTok included only one video created by a scientifically credible source. Thus, there is a need for public health professionals to recognize the importance of using social media in messaging. Oftentimes, messages disseminated by even the most trusted agencies do not reach their intended audience.”
The study, “Community Mitigation of COVID-19 and Portrayal of Testing on TikTok: Descriptive Study“, was authored by Corey H. Basch, Jan Mohlman, Joseph Fera, Hao Tang, Alessia Pellicane, and Charles E. Basch.