Alimentary Politics and Algorithms: The Spread of Information about “Healthy” Eating and Diet on TikTok
Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts (A.B.)
Social media has been identified as an important venue for the spread of diet trends, especially those that promote disordered eating. Meanwhile, existing research on diet and alimentary politics points to deeper societal issues at stake in food choice, such as notions of personhood and what it means to be healthy. This research involves a deeper study, through interviews with users and extensive observation of content, of the types of information about diet being promoted on TikTok and the ways in which it spreads on the app. TikTok emerged as its own social world, a place of interaction where both identity formation and community formation took place. Messages about eating “healthily” were woven into identities and communities, allowing them to become central to personhood, identity, and morality. Additionally, in interviews and in the observation of content, several ways of demonstrating authority and credibility that were important to the spread of this information became evident. Complex social rules and processes governed the construction of knowledge and the regulation of potentially harmful content or discourses. The dynamics of how people interact with TikToks and how these processes work are key to understanding the ideas about diet that are spreading on the app and knowing how to account for and respond to them in future public health and health communication efforts.
Dr. Anna Jacobsen
Dr. Rebecca Lester, Dr. Talia Dan-Cohen
Pierce, Sara, "Alimentary Politics and Algorithms: The Spread of Information about “Healthy” Eating and Diet on TikTok" (2022). Senior Honors Papers / Undergraduate Theses. 40.