Hijacking Your Own Brain - Why You Should Stop Watching TikTok
April 9th, 2023
Yes, your parents were right; the short clips provided by TikTok are in fact rotting your mind, and they’re doing so in the most malicious way possible.
With over 1.5 billion active monthly users and more than 3 billion downloads internationally, TikTok has taken the world by storm. It is virtually impossible to go an entire day without somehow interacting with TikTok, whether that is by watching Tiktoks yourself or seeing others do so. Even its stars have risen to prominence - Charli D’Amelio went from being a normal schoolgirl from Connecticut to a massive overnight sensation and a household name.
TikTok’s undeniable global prevalence and dominance largely stems from its novel product model - instead of being based on images or longer videos, as many other older social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram are, Tiktok instead encourages users to post short, 15 second to one minute long clips. While this novel gimmick has massively benefited TikTok, leading it to become the fastest growing social media platform in 2021 over other major, more established platforms such as Snapchat and Facebook, the same is not true for our minds.
The problem with TikTok is that it completely hijacks the mesolimbic circuit, more commonly known as the reward system. The short, fast paced TikTok clips heavily stimulate the dopamine receptors in our brains and cause a large amount of dopamine to be released for every single reel played. While the presence of large amounts of dopamine may lead to feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, or even euphoria, it is highly problematic for the long run because dopamine, or rather, having only a limited supply of it, is completely essential to your ability to function and perform regular, essential tasks.
If you have ever experienced difficulty concentrating on completing your homework after using TikTok for any duration of time, you have experienced this side effect of TikTok usage. Less mentally stimulating activities, such as reading a book, painting, or even watching a full length movie simply have no way to compete with TikTok’s incredibly easily accessible and highly stimulating videos. In other words, frequently watching TikToks will cause other activities to feel dull, boring, or even stressful and reduce your ability to concentrate on the task at hand. On a similar note, nothing destroys one’s attention span like Tiktok’s short-form videos: your ability to focus on slightly longer tasks gradually deteriorates until even 10 minute long Youtube videos become boring to you.
Being easily able to access large streams of dopamine through TikTok may even lead to addiction over time, decreasing the quality of your life by reducing your time and willingness to do other things, such as talking to others or sports. To make matters worse, TikTok operates on a highly advanced algorithm that can accurately detect your interests and adapt to sudden changes in the content you are viewing. Studies have shown these personalised videos stimulate the mind’s reward centres more than random videos watched by users, degrading your ability to focus on tasks more efficiently and further incentivising you to allocate more and more of your time and attention to TikTok.
Social media is constantly shifting and adapting in an attempt to capture our ever decreasing attention spans and it is up to the user to be aware of all of its pitfalls and side effects: today it is Tiktok, tomorrow it might be something else. However, one thing remains constant: you should definitely start paying attention to the amount of social media, in this case, Tiktok, you consume.