Project Director

Blanton, Natalie

Department Examiner

Noe, Marcia; Palmer, Heather


Dept. of Women's Studies


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


A massive surge in popularity of the social media app TikTok coincided with the first major surge of COVID-19 cases in the United States. As U.S. Americans began leaving their houses again and the U.S. approaches a semblance of a “post-pandemic” era, many LGBTQ+ social media users, particularly TikTok users, have mentioned the influence social media had on understanding their queer identity. This study seeks to contribute to a larger field of research into how social media is affecting identity development in adolescents and young adults. This study employs an anonymous online survey to ask undergraduate students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga: (1) if the TikTok platform provided a noticeable sense of connection to a community—queer or not, (2) if users questioned or understood their identity differently during the pandemic, and (3) if the content they viewed and interacted with on TikTok influenced their understanding of their gender or sexual identity. Both heterosexual and queer respondents used TikTok frequently during the pandemic and felt more connected to the LGBTQ+ community by using TikTok. This study’s respondents tend to notice the influence of TikTok content on their understanding of their sexuality but less so on their understanding of their gender identity. Even if their identity did not change during the pandemic, many respondents developed more nuanced understandings of their own gender and/or sexuality.


I would like to thank Dr. Natalie Blanton for signing on as my thesis director in the middle of the project, providing valuable advice with the results and discussion, and helping me successfully complete this project. I would like to thank Dr. James Arnett for being my thesis director at the beginning of this project and providing necessary guidance and writing motivation. I would like to thank Dr. Marcia Noe and Dr. Heather Palmer for serving on my thesis committee and perfecting my paper. I want to thank Dr. Elisabeth Sheff-Stefanik for allowing me to be a research assistant for two semesters in your ongoing study, which provided me with invaluable research experience. I want to thank all the faculty within the sociology program and women, gender, and sexuality studies program at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for educating and guiding me throughout my four years at the university that led me to successfully complete this project. I want to issue a special thank you to Drs. Farron Kilburn, Gwendolyn Spring Kurtz, Sheena Monds, and Gerda Zinner for allowing me to visit your classes to collect responses for this project. Finally, I want to thank my family, friends, and roommate Trish Nguyen for providing emotional support and motivation during the challenging periods of this project.

IRB Number



B. A.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Arts.




Sexual minority students--Social networks--United States; Sexual minority community


TikTok (Electronic resource)--Influence


social media; gender; sexuality; COVID-19; community; identity


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies

Document Type



47 leaves