In a constantly changing media ecosystem, TikTok is gaining prominence and attention, particularly among youth and Gen Z. The platform’s unique affordances are recently being utilized by young voices to promote self-expression and social activism. Consequently, TikTok’s changing nature is giving space for serious social and political issues impacting the future of young generations on topics such as climate change. By analyzing the top N=400 TikTok videos from the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), this study contributes to rare knowledge of utilizing TikTok’s affordances in scientific and political topics such as climate change, using the rhetorical appeals: ethos, pathos, and logos to persuade. As young agents of change, youth are considered central to public policy, and their voices and participation are integral from a sustainable and developmental aspect.
The study also explores the impact that the intervention had on public interaction with information and the formulation of opinions on climate change. The findings indicate that the COP as an intervention shifted the persuasion pattern among youth, from being heavily dominated by emotions (pathos) to using more logical and evidence-based persuasion methods (logos and ethos). With around (75%) of emotional appeal prominence (pathos), logos followed with (63.5%) and ethos were the least prominent with (42%). The dominance of high sentiments towards the topic reflects how youth utilize TikTok’s affordances to express their sadness and fear (32.8%), as well as hope for climate action (16%).
By reflecting on the global narrative, the findings suggest that it is critical to sustain international awareness raising by synergizing online and offline efforts on climate change to create momentum. As presented in the study, the intervention had a significant impact on creating affective publics in the short and long run. However, their persuasion methods faded and reverted to the initial pattern.
The power of social media platforms such as TikTok and its affordances allows youth to visually discuss and intervene in experts’ level conversation, that usually takes place among politicians, journalists, scholars, and scientists. Despite not offering expert-level advice on the causes, affects, and solutions, youth have established a global network that is concerned with global affairs that goes beyond boundaries, which proves that today we live in a ‘digital village’.
School of Global Affairs and Public Policy
Journalism & Mass Communication Department
MA in Journalism & Mass Communication
Committee Member 1
Committee Member 2
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(2024).Green Fame on TikTok Analyzing digital persuasion appeals on climate change discourse among the public and youth. [Master's Thesis, the American University in Cairo]. AUC Knowledge Fountain.
Ayad, Sherry. Green Fame on TikTok Analyzing digital persuasion appeals on climate change discourse among the public and youth.. 2024. American University in Cairo, Master's Thesis. AUC Knowledge Fountain.
Available for download on Wednesday, January 22, 2025