Date of Award

Spring 5-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Media and Popular Culture Studies

Committee Director

Myles McNutt

Committee Member

Allison Page

Committee Member

Yvette Pearson


TikTok, a video sharing application, has become the center of viral internet culture. The app has risen in popularity so quickly that scholarly literature investigating its vast societal impact is still nascent. TikTok is not only used to discuss popular culture topics and create trends, but also being utilized as a tool for social justice activism in the United States in the wake of a tumultuous year with major events such as the coronavirus pandemic, a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the 2020 presidential election. TikTok activism is not without critiques, ranging from concerns of foreign government surveillance and data mining to questions of TikTok’s impact on creator mental health and the effectiveness of digital activism. I argue that despite these critiques, TikTok holds cultural value as an impactful and meaningful tool for social justice activism and entry-level democracy in the United States in the summer of 2020. Using two case studies and data compiled from interviews with content creators themselves, I provide a snapshot of how this app was used by content creators to facilitate grassroots digital social justice campaigns during this historically significant period, and aim to support the legitimacy of this form of digital activism. My intent is to contribute to a better understanding of the process of activism in novel digital spaces and encourage further discussions about TikTok, civic engagement, and digital activism.