LIKES, SARCASM AND POLITICS: YOUTH RESPONSES TO A PLATFORM-INITIATED MEDIA LITERACY CAMPAIGN ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Keywords:youth, misinformation, social media, media literacy, TikTok
When it comes to youth and media literacy, the focus of both research and practice has been on the integration of media literacy instruction into young people’s various educational experiences, rather than studying, implementing and evaluating such initiatives in situ, on social media—which is known to be youths’ central news source. Furthermore, existing studies focus on older platforms like Facebook or Twitter, and we lack a nuanced understanding of these dynamics on the platforms most popular with youth today. The present study aims to fill this gap, by analyzing how users responded to a media literacy education campaign on the popular youth-oriented social media app TikTok, with a focus on the lessons that we might draw in terms of targeted media literacy education initiatives for youth. Our large-scale qualitative content analysis—which included 11,449 public comments posted on 5 educational TikTok videos about media literacy—facilitated a naturalistic study of young people’s attitudes towards such initiatives. We found that reactions to the campaign were mixed, and highly political in nature. While many users appreciated the media literacy campaign and TikTok’s role in implementing it, there was also resistance to the campaign, due to factors related to video content, dissemination approach, and the very identity of TikTok as a platform. Across the board, comments were highly political, illustrating the politicized nature of media literacy education today. These reactions serve as rich feedback that can usefully inform future media literacy campaigns on social media, and especially those targeting youth audiences.