Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of TikTok. Launched in 2016, TikTok has easily become one of the most popular social media apps of our generation. It features an endless amount of short videos, ranging from comedy, TV shows, sports, politics, and celebrities. You can find practically anything on the app. If you can’t find it, you can create it.
I downloaded TikTok in 2019, but then I deleted it during the summer of 2020. Six months later, I decided to redownload it for the new year because I felt like I was missing out. Another six months passed by and I deleted the app again, and I am happy to say I haven’t gone back since.
If you ask anyone who has the app, they’ll tell you it’s addictive. TikTok is not just one of those apps that you use every so often, it’s one of those apps that once you go on, you’re scrolling for hours.
The reason TikTok engages your mind so much is because of how simple it is. As soon as you open the app, you’re presented with a video on your “for you” page. The name is very fitting because, through an algorithm that collects data from you and other users, the app decides what videos you’ll want to watch. Whenever you stumble across a video that you enjoy, it can release a small amount of dopamine, or the “feel-good” hormone, into your brain. This acts as a reward that subconsciously encourages you to keep scrolling until you find another video that entertains you, a psychological idea known as “random reinforcement.”
In addition, there are even minuscule features to the app that users probably wouldn’t even think about. For example, every TikTok video shows how many likes and comments it has. Humans naturally value the opinions of others, so you are more likely to watch a video that has a lot of likes or comments. There’s also a lot of familiarity with the app for its users, such as popular songs/sounds, dances, trends, filters, etc.
I always knew TikTok wasn’t good for me. I would come home from school and immediately go on it, spending two hours scrolling and making pointless videos. I would waste so much time in internet rabbit holes where I would find a video, check the comment section, then click on another profile and start all over again. I worried too much about what other people were doing. I compared myself to a persona created on the internet.
Most TikTok users document the good parts of their life by showing themselves when they look good or when they’re with their friends Who wouldn’t? I know social media is very superficial so people can display whatever side they want the world to see, but I had a difficult time reminding myself of that.
Social media “influencers” who have gained fame from the app are most guilty of this. Based on an algorithm, TikTok has made these average people famous for doing absolutely nothing. I know it’s not their fault, and I give influencers credit for building their brand after they receive fame, but I think it’s crazy that some pay so much attention to these people who have no significance to their life.
TikTok also enforces unrealistic beauty standards. I always remembered seeing girls on my “for you” page who embodied those standards, and it often left me feeling insecure. Whenever I posted TikToks that I felt good in, I based my confidence on how many comments the video got. If only one person commented that I looked nice, it took away from the positive self-image I previously had in my head. I would compare that to the twenty comments someone else got and question my worth.
I know there are plenty of positive accounts and creative ways you can use TikTok, but for me, the negatives outweigh the positives. The app didn’t inspire me and I firmly believe I would be in a worse place mentally if I still had it. People will tell me, “I could never live without TikTok,” but you can.
As mentioned earlier, seeing TikToks you like on your “for you” page can release a small amount of dopamine in your brain, acting as a mini reward. When you get rid of that stimulus, or delete the app, your brain can experience stress or anxiety, often about missing out. I experienced this for about a week after deleting the app. However, that feeling went away very quickly and now I never have the urge to use the app.
There are strategies such as limiting your time on a certain app, not interacting with negativity, and ignoring the numbers. However, these can all be difficult to achieve, so I just decided to delete the problem overall.