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Durham e-Theses
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Time is TikToking: User perceptions of primate videos on one of the fastest growing social media platforms

CARSTENS, MILENA (2022) Time is TikToking: User perceptions of primate videos on one of the fastest growing social media platforms. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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Introduction: With billions of social media users, platforms have a powerful influence on user
perceptions of and behaviour toward wild animals. TikTok is known for its large and young
user base <-30 years old and focus on entertainment, but we currently have no knowledge of
what primate content is posted, its popularity, and whether video characteristics negatively
influence user perceptions of primates.

Methods: A pilot study showed that searching for ‘monkey’ resulted in videos of monkeys,
apes and strepsirrhines. I collected data on the number of hearts, views and account followers,
video and account types, comment and video activity themes, genus, primate infant and
human presence, human-primate proximity, primates in clothes, presence of pet primates and
domestic pets, human-primate behaviour, video setting, context, and barrier presence from
1104 videos, using the search terms ‘monkey’ (n= 759) and ‘zoo monkey’ (n= 345).

Results: Primate videos received millions of views and hearts, indicating that they are very
popular. Almost all videos were entertainment focused. Setting (zoo vs. non-zoo) had a
significant effect on video popularity, suggesting that primates in zoos were least enjoyable to
watch compared to in non-zoo settings. Zoo primates provoked significantly fewer comments
about wanting a primate pet than in non-zoo settings, suggesting that zoos make them appear
more dangerous than non-zoo settings. When videos included written context promoting
primate pet-keeping, users were significantly more interested in pet primates than videos
without this context. Direct human-primate contact resulted in significantly more users
wanting pet primates than videos showing humans within arm’s reach of primates, but not
touching them. Videos including infants received significantly more comments referring to
‘cuteness’ and comments expressing a desire for a pet primate than videos without infants

Discussion: To minimise the negative effects on user perceptions of primates, TikTok
uploaders should educate users in written format and avoid posts featuring primate infants
and direct human-primate contact. I propose a ‘positive input - positive output’ hypothesis,
which addresses how posting entertaining conservation videos could increase content
popularity and public awareness and thus improve pro-conservation behaviours by users

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Science
Keywords:social media; TikTok; primate videos; user perceptions; video characteristics; entertainment; popularity; pet primates; human-primate interactions; conservation
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Nov 2022 15:30

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