The Law of Attraction: Theorizing TikTok's #manifestation Trend as Mediated Spirituality

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Green, Jacob, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Hedstrom, Matthew, Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Swartz, Lana, Media Studies, University of Virginia

This thesis develops a theoretical framework for exploring the dissemination of #manifestation on TikTok, which saw widespread appeal during the pandemic. It begins by historicizing manifestation within the history of American metaphysical thought to demonstrate that it is not an emergent belief, while also contributing to a better understanding of why spiritual ideas continue to find cultural purchase throughout time and space. To explore how these ideas are circulated in a culture, this thesis juxtaposes the print media culture that underpins the development of spirituality in the nineteenth-century with TikTok, and how the app shapes spiritual discourses and interactivity through its affordances and editing tools. By analyzing TikTok videos as artifacts of belief, it also theorizes how digital mediation affects modes of ritual, norms of identity, the interplay of humor and sincerity, and how TikTok users enchant the algorithm.

MA (Master of Arts)
#manifestation, manifestation, TikTok, pandemic, spirituality, ritual, enchantment, algorithm
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