From the start of the pandemic, in March 2020, my daily time spent on TikTok was a pretty constant three hours. Sometimes four, upwards of six. In short, my hyper-fixation for the last two years has been TikTok, and it’s been detrimental to my grades, relationships and mental health. I know you might be saying come on it’s just an app, don’t be so dramatic and just stop using it—but I promise you, it’s not that simple.
My mental state has never been a shining beacon of health, but I’ve never felt as insecure, anxious or depressed as I did when I had TikTok. Constantly trying to keep up with trends; dyeing my hair different colors to fit the beauty standard; recording myself from every angle to check if I had a good side, front or back profile; watching thousands of “a normal, lazy day in my life” videos where 20-year-old girls wake up at 3:30 a.m. to work out, go to their small business at 6 a.m, work till 8 a.m., snag an Uber over to their $1,500 botox appointment, take a 10-minute break to chow down on some grilled salmon and white rice, just before going to their retail job at Vivienne Westwood in SoHo where they’ll work till 5. Oh, then they’ll return back to their NYC penthouse on the Upper East Side that overlooks Central Park, throw on some Louboutins and go clubbing till 12 a.m.—yeah, I was feeling pretty awful about myself. I mean, could you blame me? I was comparing my life to these girls that were making the unattainable look like child’s play. It was the only thing I was exposed to every day because I kept on interacting with it. But that’s exactly how the TikTok algorithm works, it found what I became most engaged with and continued to show me this “normal life” video after video to keep me locked in.
I’ve tried deleting it before, but I justified the re-download by lying to myself that I’d miss out on trends, I wouldn’t understand audio references, I wouldn’t learn random, useless factoids, or I wouldn’t be up-to-date with pop culture. But I became so sick of my seven-second to three-minute long attention span. I wanted to learn more than what I could learn in a TikTok video, and turns out I didn’t even want to see the new micro trend that throws the world for a loop each week. I needed to re-figure-out what I actually liked, what my goals were and who I wanted to be. Not who people on TikTok were being. So after two years of wasting hours of my life on the app, I decided it was time. I couldn’t even delete it myself, so I handed the phone to my friend who deleted it for me.
Now I’m going a whole month without TikTok, and I’m feeling so much better. I’m not saying I’m cured of all mental illness. It takes more than a month to reverse all the damage I did to myself, but I am doing a hell of a lot better. Here’s a few of the ways my life has IMMENSELY improved in the absence of TikTok:
- I have so much more time.
- I’ve picked up actual hobbies.
- I LOVE to read. (I know this is dumb and I sound so “look at me, I’m smart and cool”—no. I’m being serious, sorry about it)
- My attention span has increased! (No seriously, I can watch a whole movie without getting on my phone.)
- I’m not overanalyzing every part of my appearance.
- I wear what I want to wear, not what TikTok is wearing.
- I talk to my friends about things other than “oh did you see that TikTok that said…”
- And finally, I don’t have to credit TikTok to where I get my knowledge from, and the convo no longer has to go: “Oh where did you learn that?” “TikTok.” (Now that I say that, I would never believe anyone again whose source is TikTok.)
Basically, I don’t think I’ll ever redownload that stupid, privacy-invading app again. Also, a reminder that this is only month #1, so I’m beyond ecstatic to see the improvements that lie ahead.
If anything I said has resonated with you at all, I highly encourage you to delete it for one week, then maybe journal about five things that have improved in your life without it.
I don’t want to sound corny, but take your life back! You aren’t missing out on anything, I promise.