Young people and TikTok use in Australia: digital geographies of care in popular culture

Jessica McLean*, Clare Southerton, Deborah Lupton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The short-form video-sharing app TikTok is the fastest growing social media platform globally, particularly among young people, and the app is attracting significant academic interest. However, the voices of young people have been mostly absent from these debates. This article offers a qualitative study of how young people are using TikTok to make care-full digital worlds in and around Sydney, Australia, drawing on interviews with sixteen young people and bringing together literatures on geographies of care, digital geographies and TikTok practices. Research participants identified care-related themes in these interviews, including that they enjoyed using the app to nurture relationships, found that it facilitated greater awareness of their relative privilege, and provided support and opportunities to express themselves. These practices proved important forms of connection and self-care during COVID-19-related periods of physical isolation and disruption to everyday routines. But a lack of care was also evident, from other users and the app itself, suggesting tensions in how care is negotiated in this digital space. Young people articulated structural problems with the app and offered constructive remedies that are practical and feasible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)795-813
Number of pages19
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
Issue number5
Early online date29 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • care
  • digital geographies
  • popular culture
  • repair
  • TikTok
  • young people


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