Carson McDougall

Research Project

Unraveling the Effects of Beauty Perceptions on Social Media


My name is Carson McDougall, and I am a fourth-year Professional Communications student minoring in law. Through my four years at Toronto Metropolitan University, I have learned the importance of being an effective communicator and how those skills are constantly translated into our everyday world. Before going back to school, I had a career as a professional ballerina where my creative communication skills were used in an entirely different light. My studies have taught me to capitalize on that experience, inspiring my creativity and work ethic in an entirely different way. I am passionate about finding new ways to solve problems with effective communication.

Research Summary

TikTok has quickly become one of the current generation’s most popular social media platforms. With this growing popularity, it is imperative to understand any adverse effects it may have on its users. It’s no secret that social media has shown a significant impact on the mental health of its users and the effect it has on the way people view and present themselves. This capstone project analyzed how TikTok perpetuates unrealistic beauty standards, specifically for women. Through analyzing 120 TikTok videos, we wanted to understand how beauty standards are created through social media and why they are maintained. Although in today’s society, we are familiar with the negative impacts social media can have, specifically through creating unrealistic standards, this research seeks to analyze what makes these standards so important and how we, as consumers, continue to perpetuate them. 


We analyzed 120 TikTok videos using both a multi-modal analysis and a text analysis of the comments. Combining these two types of research, we could understand relationships, such as what kinds of videos were the most popular and which were more likely to receive hate. A key piece of data we discovered was the comparison level between the viewer and the creator. The most common kinds of comments were ones where the consumer said they wished they looked like the creator; they wanted to know what products to buy to look like the creator; they compared their significant other to the creator, and so on. This key finding is imperative in answering our question about how these standards are perpetuated through TikTok so frequently. TikTok enables and encourages consumers to constantly compare themselves to what they see online. This comparison creates these beauty standards because all consumers believe they must look a certain way based on what they see. 


This data is imperative when interacting with platforms like TikTok. Because of its growing prevalence in today’s environment, it is crucial to understand what the content we are consuming is saying to us and how it is making us feel. 

Research Poster

Lightning Talk

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