TikTok: How does it impact an individual’s attention span?

By: McKenzie Welch

TikTok is a social media phenomenon that took over the world in the blink of an eye, especially during the quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst it’s a fun app to scroll through rather than doing your homework or going to sleep, it has detrimental effects on the attention spans of individuals, and people are beginning to see this happen right in front of them.

I have first hand knowledge of this phenomenon because I am a user of TikTok, myself. I didn’t notice at first, as it was just a fun app to spend some time on when I had so much time to kill. But, when I started noticing that I would pick up my phone rather than reading a book, or that I couldn’t even make it through an episode of ‘Criminal Minds’ without scrolling through the never-ending TikTok for you page, I knew something was wrong.

More recently, I have noticed that TikTok has consumed my life. Rather than doing something productive, I’ll choose to spend time on TikTok, or sometimes other social media apps, for hours on end. I won’t even realize how much time has passed since I started.

It’s a cycle that is very difficult to break, and I haven’t been able to break it yet. I still find myself procrastinating my homework just to watch more TikTok, and it makes me wonder: Why does TikTok always draw me back no matter how much I want to move away from it?

The first reason that TikTok is so detrimental is because 32.5% of the users are ages 10-19. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an individual’s brain is still developing into their mid 20s, so the ages of 10-19 are the prime age to hinder development.

Because of TikTok’s short videos, which are on average 21-34 seconds long, they also keep people coming back for more. Because of the fleeting video length, you can watch videos for long periods of time without realizing how much of it has passed. Also, after watching videos that pass by so quickly, the brain becomes accustomed to that length. Watching things like shows and movies or reading a book becomes increasingly more difficult.

Finally, the reason TikTok is so addictive, in the first place, is because the videos shown to an individual are representative of the things they enjoy. This makes watching TikTok videos a fun experience that is difficult to stray from.

All in all, TikTok is not an inherently bad app, but it is one that should be used in moderation. Using it in moderation helps you maintain control over your attention span, and it allows you to use your time for things that would be considered more productive.

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