Identity and Online Advocacy

TikTok Influencers Spreading Bad Health Habits and Promoting a Starving Gen Z

Abstract: Social media has enabled an era of misinformation, where content that is false or lacks scientific evidence is spread rapidly, reaching a vast audience. Although misinformation isn’t exclusive to TikTok, the rise of influencers on this platform has meant that the dispersion of misinformation is believed by vulnerable audiences. Generation Z are the most common TikTok users and are the most vulnerable to the spread of misinformation, specifically misinformation about health and wellness. Health and wellness on TikTok is a popular subject and videos such as ‘what I eat in a day’, ‘how to lose weight fast’ and ‘exercises to lose body fat’ are commonly influencing Generation Z to emulate this culture. Through my studies, I have found that the affordances of TikTok, such as the copycat nature and algorithms has meant that misinformation can thrive. Influencers on this platform play a vital role in spreading this information due to their perceived trust and credibility. Through the case study of Rae’s metabolism drops, it is revealed that misinformation is prevalent on this platform and this can have real-life health implications. Generation Z are increasingly becoming victims of a toxic diet culture, resulting in body image issues, low self-esteem and eating disorders. The information silos that have the potential to create a positive knowledge community also have the potential to spread misinformation.

Keywords: Generation Z, Influencers, TikTok, health and wellness, identity, online advocacy, misinformation.

Introduction: Social media, in specific the newly emerged platform, TikTok has created a knowledge community for health and wellness. TikTok reaches millions of people and encompasses the sharing of personal user-generated content, leading to the distribution of all sorts of different content, including that related to exercise and health (Marocolo et al., 2012, p. 2). Influencer identity can create online advocacy, but this potential for advocacy can be used in an incorrect and non-beneficial way (Abidin, 2021, p. 6). Information on TikTok isn’t always accurate or backed up by scientific evidence and is merely based on individuals’ beliefs and opinions (Chou et al., 2018, p. 2417). Misinformation on social media isn’t new nor exclusive to TikTok, although the introduction of this platform and the emergence of influencers on this platform has led to misinformation to disseminate rapidly (Wang et al., 2019, p. 1). This directly targets Generation Z, as according to Yang and Zildberg, 2020, “In the U.S., 60% of the TikTok active users are aged 16–24-year-olds” (p. 5). This generation is said to be a specifically risky time period for the development of poor exercise and diet habits (Nelson et al., 2008 as cited in Vaterlaus et al., 2015, p. 152). Health and wellness influencers on TikTok play a key role in influencing how Generation Z behave in terms of diet and lifestyle, and this potential for social change has resulted in the spread of diet-related misinformation and in turn this has had various health implications for Generation Z.

The affordances of social media platforms like TikTok enable misinformation to flourish and target those who are specifically vulnerable to this false information. The vast spread of information on TikTok has a larger effect and there are more likely false facts within the large and vast information pool. It also means that misinformation can be resistant to correction, due to virality and the copycat nature of the platform (Wang et al., 2019, p. 2). Zhou discovered that on Tik Tok, users are more likely to copy, repeat and imitate content produced by others that have influenced them (Tang & Zildberg, 2020, p. 5). The algorithms of TikTok mean that there are sequences of information spread, leading to exposure being selective to those that are seeking it or that are interested in it (Lofft, 2020, p. 58). The spread is exacerbated by echo-chambers and information silos (Chou et al., 2018, p. 2417). This means TikTok feeds are personally curated, through the selecting and sharing of content related to the specific narratives people follow and ignore (Lofft, 2020, p. 58). Feeds are tailored to individuals’ personality, identity and interests meaning information silos are created consequently decreasing the likelihood for the exchange of differing viewpoints and the amplification of misinformation within a closed network (Chou et al., 2018, p. 2417). This also means the vulnerable targets, being Generation Z who are constantly watching health and wellness related videos are being misled by this false information. Some may argue that technology could be perceived as a motivator for exercise and that TikTok could expand food choices through the sharing of recipe videos, the showcasing food other young adults eat and the sharing of exercises for weight loss (Vaterlaus, 2015, p. 151). 

Although TikTok has allowed for immense opportunities for people to engage with others in a beneficial way, the user-generated nature of this platform has meant that users, whether they are pseudo professionals, influencers, celebrities or just the general public can be publishers and are subject to no form of factual verification or accountability (Wang et al., 2019, p. 2). Information can be exaggerated, oversimplified, non-specific and inaccurate but is still distributed virally through TikTok (Vaterlaus et al., 2015, p. 153). The main function of TikTok is the, ‘For You’ page in which constantly pushes content to users based on popularity. Therefore, content focused on weight loss such as workouts for ‘super easy thigh reduction’, ‘what I eat in a day’ videos, and hacks to ‘lose six pounds in two days’ are prevalent. Reau (2013, as cited in Vasconelos, 2019) concluded during his research, “46% of people check food news and new trend diets only online and more than 30% claims that check both online and offline” (p. 73). This is an issue because the majority of those who promote healthy eating on social media don’t hold a degree in nutrition, but yet are considered health and wellness influencers due to their popularity and personal brand they have created that gives them power (Vasconelos, 2019, p. 2). 

Influencers are people who influence a large number of their peers and they do this on TikTok through the continuous production of video content allowing them to gradually gain more followers or community recognition (Yang & Zilberg, 2020, p. 4). When influencers promote health-related misinformation, the public tend to believe it and this is specifically effective when consumers directly identify with the influencer (Myrick & Erlichman, 2020, p. 386). This is due to popularity-based credibility and the emotional trust built between influencers and their audience through engagement and perceived transparency through the sharing of their personal lives (Myrick & Erlichman, 2020, p. 367). Success of an influencer depends on follower count, and this count determines their amplification ability (Abidin, 2021, p. 6). Many followers of influencers perceive them as their friends, and therefore take their advice and recommendations about health and wellness seriously (Pilgrim & Bohnet-Joschko, 2019, p.5). Numerous TikTok health influencers also have sought-after body types, making followers curious as to how they achieved this physique and encouraging them to follow the diet regime they are promoting in order to emulate them (Lofft, 2020, p. 57). This is a pressing issue as these influencers are generally unqualified and are spreading unsubstantiated claims about nutrition and fitness to vulnerable consumers who are trusting them as experts based on aesthetics and popularity only (Loft, 2020, p. 56). Mass followings and trusting relationships gives influencers power, making them feel like they can inform others about nutrition and exercise (Lofft, 2020, p. 57). It also sets up business opportunities in health and fitness such as apps, e-books and meal plans, making their claims come from a business-focused background, despite not necessarily having medical evidence to back their claims (Lofft, 2020, p. 57). 

A lot of the time, TikTok influencers endorse cleanse diets that supposedly help them lose weight and gain energy, but the medical community claim these diets aren’t effective and can even cause health damage when prescribed to the wrong body type (Berman & Boguski, 2014 as cited in Myrick & Erlichman, 2020, p. 367). Many influencers promote one-size-fits-all diets when in reality this it isn’t how works (Lofft, 2020, p.60). For example, influencers who build their brand around a specific dietary pattern, such as veganism, aggregates a community who follow the same beliefs about food and these ideas are reinforced, whether accurate or not and whether they are suitable for all people or not (Lofft, 2020, p. 60). Low quality information regarding health and exercise may influence followers to adopt a damaging behaviour or learn incorrect diet and exercise related habits (Marocolo et al., 2021, p. 3). Studies show that children and adolescents are most likely to engage with health information through social networking sites and on these sites, this information is received through influencers (Pilgrim & Bohnet-Joschko, 2019, p. 2).

Potentially thousands of TikTok users are sharing videos, and a lot of this content is surrounding health and wellness (Dempster, 2020, para 6). This content includes videos that count calories of every meal or offer recipes for water-based weight-loss drinks, both of which can be harmful activities when put into the hands of adolescents (Dempster, 2020, para 6). While there are dangers to restricting calories and these extreme diets to anyone at any age, the adolescent years are a particularly sensitive time for undernutrition, said Abbey Sharp, a dietitian who reviews online nutrition misinformation on a dedicated YouTube channel (Coda, 2021, para 14). An example of spread of misinformation about health and wellness on TikTok is a trend that arose surrounding metabolism drops (Flynn, 2020). Rae, a wellness company came out with metabolism drops for adults (Sydney Gore in Life, 2020, para 3). But the brands popularity on TikTok meant that teenage girls are using them (Sydney Gore in Life, 2020, para 3). The product uses ingredients that enhance natural metabolism in women, and according to the site, these are only designed for women 18 and older (Landsverk, 2020, para 5). TikTok fans understood the product to supress appetite and create fast weight loss and were using it excessively for this (Landsverk, 2020, para 18). High amounts of this product can cause diarrhoea, cramping, nausea if used incorrectly and excessively (Landsverk, 2020, para 6). These drops went viral and were spread by those on TikTok with high followings, exposing them to many vulnerable teenagers. This misinformation led to teenagers to consume excessive amounts of the product and this was proven to be ineffective and have negative health effects (Sydney in Gore, 2020, para 13). 


when spring break is a month away 🥵🤧 #skinnyszn

♬ My Heart Went Oops – Tiagz
Rae’s Metabolism drops effect on Gen Z

TikTok is widely popular among Generation Z and the prevalence of health and wellness misinformation on this platform has led to a toxic diet culture and negative health implications among teenagers and adolescents (Coda, 2021, para 13). A lot of the health influencers on TikTok post stylised content that show ‘magazine’ ready shots (Bak & Priniski, 2020, p. 2). This is a self-promotional act that presents online identity as performative (Abidin, 2021, p. 6). It lacks scientific basis and promotes thin ideals to followers (Bak & Priniski, 2020, p. 2). A lot of the influencers also have the sought-after body type, promoting the idea that a thin body means for a healthy body (Bak & Priniski, p. 4). Strictly controlled diet and exercise routines promoted on TikTok are then understood as the means to achieve the defined body image (Pilgrim & Bohnet-Joschko, 2019, p. 4). This constant display of thin body types also increases social comparison among Generation Z, leading to them wanting to encompass the habits being promoted by influencers (Pilgrim & Bohnet-Joschko, 2019, p. 5). This misinformation not only misleads teenagers to performing incorrect diet and exercise habits, but also leads to concerning issues surrounding mental health such as low self-esteem and eating disorders (Bak & Priniski, 2020, p. 3). Research suggests that there are negative health effects from health influencers posting content, such as promoting thin-body ideals and health cures that can potentially harm the body if not prescribed correctly (Bak & Priniski, 2020, p. 4). The Butterfly Foundation’s annual body esteem survey found that due to the increase social media and TikTok use in 2019, 5000 Australians showed alarming results that year, demonstrating the influence this platform can have on how young people view their bodies (Dempster, 2020, para 14). 

tik tok image someone asking for unhealthy weightloss tips
TikToker reaching out for unhealthy diet tips (Marsh, 2020)

TikTok claims they have bans on ‘triggering’ behaviours that surrounds eating disorders, but there are identified loopholes allowing influencers to still post health-related content, allowing adolescents access to harmful content (Dempster, 2020, para 24). They have blocked some hashtags related to inappropriate content surround health and fitness, but this hasn’t limited the ability to search the same words into the search bar and bring up the same content that is promoting eating disorders (The Guardian, 2020, para 3). Dr Jon Goldin from the Royal College of Psychiatrists urges that social media company regulators need to do more to sanction inaction and prevent feelings of body insecurity and starvation ideals (The Guardian, 2020, para 3).

In conclusion, TikTok health and wellness influencers have contributed to the spread of misinformation about diet-related practices to Generation Z. The algorithm of TikTok has allowed for this spread of misinformation and the emergence of influencers on this platform has meant that this content is believed by Generation Z, due to the credibility influencers gain through popularity and trust. This in turn has had negative effects on Generation Z as they are being misled and are gaining false information that is leading them to have body image issues and inhabiting unsafe diet practices. The online advocacy social media and influencers allow for can have negative implications when it comes to inaccurate information being shared. 


Abidin, C. (2021). From ?networked Publics? to ?Refracted Publics?: A Companion Framework for Researching ?Below the Radar? studies. Social Media + Society. Jan-March, 1-13.

Bak, C. M., & Priniski, J. H. (2020, November 29). Representations of Health and Wellness on Instagram: An Analysis of 285,000 Posts.

Butcher, A. [@alissa.butcher]. (2020, February 18).
When spring break is a month away 🥵🤧 #skinnyszn [description]. TikTok.

Chou, W. Y. S., Oh, A., & Klein, W. M. (2018). Addressing health-related misinformation on social media. Jama320(23), 2417-2418. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.16865 

Coda. 2021, February 9. War on science: TikTok’s wellness trends breed misinformation. Coda.

Dempster, A. 2020, May 13. TikTok weight-loss videos fuelling eating disorders amid coronavirus lockdowns, health experts say. ABC News.

Landsverk, G. 2020, February 28. Popular ‘metabolism drops’ have been recalled after teens used them in a viral weight loss challenge on TikTok. Insider.

Lofft, Z. (2020). When social media met nutrition: How influencers spread misinformation, and why we believe them. Health Science Inquiry11(1), 56-61.

Marocolo, M., Meireles, A., Souza, H. L. R., Mota, G. R., Arriel, R. A., & Leite, L. H. R. (2021). Spreading Misinformation on Exercise and Health: Analysis of Instagram´ s Profiles.

Myrick, J. G., & Erlichman, S. (2020). How audience involvement and social norms foster vulnerability to celebrity-based dietary misinformation. Psychology of Popular Media9(3), 367.

Pilgrim, K., & Bohnet-Joschko, S. (2019). Selling health and happiness how influencers communicate on Instagram about dieting and exercise: Mixed methods research. BMC Public Health19(1), 1-9.

Sydney gore in Life. 2020, February 28. Why are so many teens on TikTok obsessed with these metabolism drops?. Highsnobiety.

The Guardian. 2020, December 7. TikTok investigating videos promoting starvation and anorexia. The Guardian.

Vasconcelos, C. M. B. P. D. (2019). Fake news vs. healthy diet (Doctoral dissertation).

Vaterlaus, J. M., Patten, E. V., Roche, C., & Young, J. A. (2015). # Gettinghealthy: The perceived influence of social media on young adult health behaviors. Computers in Human Behavior, 45, 151-157.

Wang, Y., McKee, M., Torbica, A., & Stuckler, D. (2019). Systematic literature review on the spread of health-related misinformation on social media. Social Science & Medicine240, 112552.

Yang, Y., & Zilberg, I. E. (2020). Understanding Young Adults’ TikTok Usage.

#dcnc21 #community #debatingsocials #digitalmarketing #research #identity #socialmedia #tiktok #onlinecommunity #generationz #influencers

17 thoughts on “TikTok Influencers Spreading Bad Health Habits and Promoting a Starving Gen Z

  1. Hey there!
    Super interesting paper, I really enjoyed reading. My question after reading this paper is simply, why did you target TikTok and not platforms such as YouTube?
    TikTok provides “soundbites” of influencers days, with videos lasting only 60 seconds. YouTube videos can be anywhere from minutes to hours long. Would those videos be more impactful in negatives ways? Or is it the soundbite length that captures audiences more?
    Great work on this text!

  2. Hi Katrina,

    The discussion in your paper regarding eating disorder glorification through social media is incredibly well sighted. Reflecting on your points regarding the activities of social media influencers spreading misinformation I believe is great and highlights the somewhat toxic relationship social media users have with influencers.

    According to Taillon, Mueller, Kowalczyk & Jones (2020) our relationship between influencers is predominantly influenced by their likability, attractiveness and expertise. Through reading this journal I was inspired by your paper to discuss the correlation between the desire to be liked in a community and the perception of beauty on our identity formation. With the culture or pretty privilege and the glorification of being beautiful in western society I believe has contributed to the glorification of eating disorders that you wrote about in your paper. When influencers are aesthetically beautiful and loved it sadly makes sense as to why their followers would want to emulate their practices, potentially with the belief “If I eat like them I will be beautiful too”. This can be supported through the YouTube trend of “Eating Like A Celebrity”, social media influencers follow the exercise and eating habits of beautiful celebrities of a certain period of time and examine their final results. YouTuber Flossie contributed to this trend and their video “Trying the Victorias Secret Model Diet and Workouts for 7 Days”(YouTube, 2019) received over 2.4 million views, with many other similar videos receiving between 2-9 million views.

    Have you ever experienced yourself being swayed by the opinions of social media influencers beyond eating habits?

    Taillon, B., Mueller, S., Kowalczyk, C., & Jones, D. (2020). Understanding the relationships between social media influencers and their followers: the moderating role of closeness. Journal Of Product & Brand Management, 29(6), 767-782. doi: 10.1108/jpbm-03-2019-2292

    YouTube. (2019). Trying the Victorias Secret Model Diet and Workouts for 7 Days [Video]. Retrieved from

  3. Hi Katrina,

    I really enjoyed your paper and raised topics that I would not have thought twice about the online social media influence.

    TikTok and many other social media platforms play a huge role in influencing an individual’s behaviour and identity. You make some good points in your essay about how TikTok has allowed influencers a voice that is taken as credible when it comes to promoting health and wellness that are not backed up by professionals and scientist.

    When individuals believe and follow the advice in the TikToks that only appear on ther for you page due to popularity or algorithms based on past views and searches it can be quite detrimental to their overall wellbeing. With TikTok being used by young kids to individuals in their late 70’s it allows for all types of wellbeing concerns based on people’s age. Is this the type of content and society views we want young kids to be exposed to and impressionable views we want them to form their identities on? I don’t think so. As you don’t have to be skinny or fit to be healthy as everyone’s body shape is different and no one should conform to one body type based on societies perception which is based one what facts.

    My question to you is how do you think as a society can we change the way TikTok and other online platforms to not be as impressionable on young individuals especially the way they perceive health and wellbeing and having to follow the ‘fad’ diets they see online so they fit in with societies views of what is healthy? Secondly, how do we make influencers on TikTok in this case not be as credible for the toxic diet culture and negative health implications among teenagers and adolescents?

    1. Hi Mikayla,

      Thanks for reading my paper. I think society as a whole needs to put in efforts to properly educate people at a young age, perhaps through schooling, about health and fitness. I also think people who do have a background in nutrition, health or fitness and are qualified should turn to social media platforms such as TikTok to share their facts and call out the incorrect and harmful health and fitness trends. This is clearly the way of the world now and as evidence shows, TikTok is very influential for young audiences. For example, the TikTok account @leanne_ward_nutrition is a nutritionist and dietitian who shares videos that consist of diet tips and recipes. Her account is verified and she has a large following so is therefore an example of an influencer who is in fact sharing information that is professionally backed up.


  4. Hi Katrina,

    I really enjoyed reading your paper! Your argument was strong and well researched.

    As a Tik Tok user who has an interest in health and fitness, I often come across videos on my For You Page that promote clean and healthy eating in a way that is actually restrictive and potentially harmful, especially to a younger audience. I usually get shown these in the form of very aesthetic what I eat in a day or #hotgirlsummer videos.

    Your paper made me think of Eugenia Cooney. Eugenia is a YouTuber/ Twitch Gamer who has had a lot of controversy surrounding her health over the years. By looking at her physical appearance it is clear that Eugenia has some issues surrounding her overall health. Her followers encourage her to get help, however, she constantly denies struggling with an eating disorder. People worry that she may, without realising it, encourage others who have an eating disorder, in the same way, that her followers, by following her and commenting that she’s beautiful etc., actually encourage her to continue her eating disorder. You can read more here:

    There was a petition started to de-platform Eugenia, similarly to the blocking of specific hashtags, do you think this will help minimise the spread of potentially damaging content? Should YouTube and Twitch intervene with content such as Eugenias, or is this crossing into censorship and blocking freedom of expression?

    Do you think that it should be up to the platform, the creator or the consumer to make sure that the content they consume is factual?

    1. What happened Claudia, was the petition successful?
      It’s difficult isn’t it, should the Eugenias be allowed to continue to post content which is potentially harmful, or should they be ‘censored’..

    2. Hi Claudia,

      Thanks for your comment. I too see those videos a lot, hence my interest in this topic. I am familiar with Eugenia Cooney but wasn’t aware of the conversation surrounding her health and how it influencers her followers. I had a read of the article you linked and in response to your question I think that Eugenia shouldn’t be de-platformed, as it sounds like it’s not her that is creating the damaging content, it’s her followers encouraging her and commenting on her weight. Her platform’s sole purpose is for gaming content, and it sounds like her followers are beginning the conversation surrounding her weight, so she shouldn’t be punished. It is similar to how plus size influencers post body positivity videos, and followers comment and say how beautiful they are when in reality, their diet and lifestyle could potentially be negatively impacting their health. I also think her platform opens up conversation surrounding eating disorders, normalising it and opening up discussion and debate.

      In regards to your question about who should be responsible for ensuring that content produced is factual, I think a combination of the platform, creator and consumer’s efforts is necessary to sufficiently censor the content to ensure it is appropriate for all audiences of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs. However, I think it is mostly important for creators to put in more effort to ensure their content is factual, and I think they need to be more aware of the possibility that their content could be harmful to their audience.

      Hope this answers your questions, would also love to know what you think about the questions you put to me.


  5. Hi Katrina,

    The case study and statisics cited support your argument strongly and I enjoyed reading your paper. The point that the Tiktok affords exposure to those who are seeking it is such an interesting point, and insinuates that ‘truth’ or correctness are not selected for by the platform’s infrastructure. You have shown the insidiousness of the popularity based credibility of influencers especially in the realm of health. Despite being well out of my adolescence, I must confess to being very much influenced by the performance of idealised bodies by influencers – such aspirational content is so convincing especially when you identify with them (via a parasocial relationship) and they purport to give you the keys to looking the same way!

    On the topic of influencers, do you think that online networks more closely resemble the egocentric networks described by dana boyd?

    1. Hi Laila,

      Thanks for your comment. Boyd (2017) states the representation of self online is personalised and this leads to unauthentic profiles as people only share what they want others to know about them. I think influencers are the worst culprits of this- they share the parts of their life that make them fit into the genre of influence they are aiming at. For example, health and fitness influencers post content for what they eat in a day, and may leave out the fact that they ate a whole block of chocolate as this doesn’t sit with the persona they are trying to portray. Online networks provide the barrier that makes egocentric networks possible.


      Boyd, D. M., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of computer‐mediated Communication, 13(1), 210-230.

  6. Hi Katrina, I really enjoyed reading your paper, and topics such as this one really excites me as I love reading what other people have to say so this was very interesting and informative! I completely agree that TikTok health and wellness influencers have contributed to the spread of misinformation about diet-related practices to Generation Z. I think this is significantly relevant today as health and wellness is something that we all are trying to strive for and the information put on the internet has definitely influenced the majority of the users. As more people are conscious about their bodies, misinformation only makes it harder and causes more damage than good.
    Every time I scroll through Instagram, I come across posts and TikTok’s of influencers promoting quick fixes and hacks to lose weight in x amount of days, and I think this is extremely toxic as a lot of people fall for these types of posts and this promotes a culture of starvation and eating disorders as you mentioned.
    I find the case study you presented about Rae’s metabolism drop to be very interesting.
    As TikTok has emerged into one of the largest platforms for Gen Z, I think influencers need to be more transparent and stop spreading falsified information and try to portray a more authentic self.

    1. Hi Saranya,

      Thanks for your comment it’s good to hear you agree with me! It’s interesting you comment on how you view these TikTok videos even through Instagram. That makes me think even if you delete TikTok as a platform to remove yourself from this negative influence, the content can still flow onto other social media platforms.

      I agree when you say that ‘as TikTok has emerged into one of the largest platforms for Gen Z, I think influencers need to be more transparent and stop spreading falsified information and try to portray a more authentic self’, but, I would say a lot of the time influencers are just sharing what works for them personally and don’t necessarily mean harm, but because of the one size does not fit all ideal, this has become harmful. But like you say there is a lot of influencers out there who promote things just for the pay check and regardless of the potential harmful outcome to their followers. For example, when Cristiano Ronaldo teamed up with a Japanese brand for the so-called Facial Fitness Pao, to promote a facial muscle strengthener (Kendall, 2014). The product was a sort of mouthpiece with propellers and was meant to strengthen your facial muscles, but this was obviously just a marketing scheme (Kendall, 2014).


      Kendall, P. (2014, August 11). Cristiano Ronaldo is endorsing one of Japan’s weirdest ever beauty products. Sora News 24.【video】/

  7. Hi Katrina,

    Congratulations on an informative and interesting paper.

    I also researched the TikTok platform, however I looked at how the unique affordances of the platform allow for the formation of online communities.

    In your paper you reference Dr Jon Goldin from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who urges that social media company regulators need to do more to sanction inaction and prevent feelings of body insecurity and starvation ideals (The Guardian, 2020, para 3). Do you believe that this should be done by the banning of particular hashtags?

    In my research, I came across a paper by Herrick et al. (2020) who analyse the content created under the #EDrecovery hashtag on the TikTok platform. While these authors recognise that pro-ED content that has been linked to this tag, there is also a large community using this hashtag to encourage recovery (Herrick et al., 2020, p. 9). Herrick et al. (2020, p. 9) argue that by banning this hashtag, personal experiences of struggle and recover would be censored.

    What changes do you believe TikTok could make to address the issue of health misinformation without censoring stories of recovery?




    Herrick, S. S., Hallward, L., & Duncan, L. R. (2020). “This is just how I cope”: An inductive thematic analysis of eating disorder recovery content created and shared on TikTok using # EDrecovery. International Journal of Eating Disorders.

    1. Hi Madison,

      Thanks for your feedback.

      According to The Guardian (2020), TikTok has taken steps to address the issues surrounding the spread of eating disorder related content by banning ads for fasting apps and weight-loss supplements and removing various hashtags. However, removing the results for hashtag searches is not enough, and hashtag searches might not even be the way users find new content anyway (The Guardian, 2020). Currently TikTok doesn’t send resources to people in the UK searching for pro-eating disorder terms- it says ‘no results found’ or directs you to the platform’s community guidelines but like you say, this isn’t always effective because some accounts might be pro-recovery, and there’s plenty of evidence to tell us how helpful social media can be for people with eating disorders (Herrick et al., 2020).

      I am unsure as to a solution for your question about what changes I believe TikTok could make to address the issue of health misinformation without censoring stories of recovery. But, I think TikTok as a company need to continue the gatekeeping as accurately as they can to ban certain accounts and remove the content that violated guidelines, as well as banning particular search terms regularly. And as content changes, they should work with nutrition and mental health expert partners to keep up to date with their technology and review their processes to ensure they can respond to emerging and new harmful activities as soon as they emerge.

      Hope that answers your question.


      Herrick, S. S., Hallward, L., & Duncan, L. R. (2020). “This is just how I cope”: An inductive thematic analysis of eating disorder recovery content created and shared on TikTok using # EDrecovery. International Journal of Eating Disorders.

      The Guardian. 2020, December 7. TikTok investigating videos promoting starvation and anorexia. The Guardian.

  8. Hi Katrina,
    Thank you for directing me to your paper, this was a fantastic read and informed me on topics and issues I had not addressed in my own paper on a similar topic.

    Although I don’t have an account on Tiktok, I do know how much of a negative impact this platform might have on communities’ wellness and healthiness.

    I loved how you highlighted examples of inefficient dietary patterns such as cleanse diets and one-size-fits-all promoted by massive numbers of influencers. The case study of Rae’s metabolism drops reminded me of the emergence of detox tea which is often come with little or no warning label, leaving many users to discover the dangers on their own. Unfortunately, detox tea products have been promoted by celebrities like Kylie Jenner, Vanessa Hudgens, and Lindsey Lohan. Recently, many consumers found out that longer use of these diets tea programs can change the amount or balance of some chemicals in the blood that can cause heart function disorders, liver damage, and other harmful effects.”

    I’m curious to know whether you feel that health care professionals also responsible to be active on the Tiktok and participate in promoting healthy behavior, and receive and answer Tiktok’s users’ questions?

    Thank you for the inspiring article you’ve provided.
    Kind regards and be safe


    1. Hi Marwah,

      Thank you for your feedback it is good to hear other’s thoughts. In regards to your detox tea case study, this would have been another good example for me to include in my paper so thank you for sharing that.

      In regards to your question about the responsibilities of health care professionals on TikTok, in my own experience on the social media platform, I have in fact seen videos put up by health experts discrediting untrue diet trends and sharing scientifically backed up information that can be trusted. For example, the TikTok account @leanne_ward_nutrition @leanne_ward_nutrition who is a nutritionist and dietitian who shares videos that consist of diet tips and recipes. Her account is verified and she has a large following so is therefore an example of an influencer who is in fact sharing information that is proffesionally backed up. I believe that because of the copycat nature of the platform in combination with the young demographic that use the platform, health care professionals should use the platform as a way to promote healthy behaviour. Although unfortunately, these professionals videos are usually less visible than the false information spread by the viral nature of TikTok due to the way the trending page of TikTok functions. The videos with the most views and re-makes are the ones that become viral, no matter if they are by a professional or not. So although I think that it is the responsibility of health care professionals to try and combat the misinformation, the nature and functionality of TikTok as a platform may not allow for this.

  9. Katrina, really interesting paper, I enjoyed reading it.

    You started well situated TikTok well, noting the potential for positive advocacy and change using the platform. Your case study of dietary misinformation around Rae was well handled. I guess the only lingering question I had was whether other TikTok users were also addressing the issues with Rae promotions? (Basically, wondered whether the TikTok community might self-correct to some extent rather than this being a problem that is just tackled outside of TikTok?)

    1. Hi Tama,

      Thank you for commenting on my paper. In response to your question, I have done some research on TikTok looking under the hashtag, ‘#metabolism drops’ to find out whether other users were addressing the issues with the drops. There were definitely efforts to discredit this information but the volume of videos with positive reviews of the product over powered the negative. A health care professional on the platform, @tasteofnutrition @tasteofnutrition made a video about how these drops can actually be bad for you and how they are ineffective in reducing your metabolism. So there was definitely efforts both on and outside of the platform.

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