Actually, Sarah Frank only wanted to upload a video for her fans on TikTok. When this went viral, there were unforeseen consequences.
When the Tiktokerin Sarah Frank at the end of July 53 seconds long video loaded onto her channel, she thought nothing of it. After all, it was a video like there are hundreds of others. In it, the teenager explains how she earns a small amount of pocket money on the side. “It’s very easy, all you have to do is fill out a series of questionnaires on the website called Prolific,” she explains in the clip.
But then the video goes viral and just one month later it already has 4.1 million views. Thousands of people who saw the video suddenly log on to the science platform and start participating in the studies. The problem with this is that these are mostly people from very similar backgrounds, in the same age group, and often even of the same gender. This is not ideal for scientific studies that rely on a mixed group of participants.
Number of users doubled
The researchers who advertised their studies on this site quickly noticed that something was wrong. A scientist from San Francisco wrote on Twitter: “I analyze 300 participants, 91 percent of them are female, seven percent male. I don’t think I coded anything wrong. How can something like this happen?”
A member of the Stanford Behavioral Laboratory reported something similar theverge.com. “We found that we have seen a huge increase in the number of participants on Prolific – from 40,000 to 80,000. That is great, but our studies suddenly have a great gender bias, with up to 85 percent women. In addition, the mean age is now at.” 21 settled. “
Other users angry
For a long time, it was not clear to the researchers how this sudden change in the demographics of their participants could come about. It was only when psychologist Hannah Schechter stumbled upon Frank’s video that she believed she had found an explanation. “It may be a bit of a stretch, but when you take into account the timing, virality and demographics of this user’s followers …” she wrote on Twitter.
Long-established users are also annoyed by the sudden popularity of the science website. “Now it’s just another page where we only earn pennies,” says one user who claims to have previously made around $ 30 a week through Prolific. Frank also noticed that fewer studies have recently been available on the website. “I’ve received some mean comments accusing me of single-handedly ruining the website and being selfish – and I didn’t get any compensation for my video.”
However, the co-founder and CTO of Prolific, Phelim Bradley, doesn’t think the hype will damage the website in the long term. A small decrease in the number of users can already be observed, he told theverge.com. “Before TikTok, around 50 percent of our users were women. For a few days this rose to 75 percent, but now we’ve got back to around 60 percent.”
Bradley estimates that around 4,600 different studies were disrupted because of the TikTok video. However, many of them could be saved – if not all. In addition, Prolific paid back the website costs to those study directors whose studies had become unusable due to the TikTok hype.