Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

TikTok and My Decreased Attention Span

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Queen's U chapter.

I absolutely love watching movies. For a few hours, escaping into this fantasy world where the hero always comes out on top brings so much joy to my day. However, I struggle to sit through a film without playing on my phone 20 minutes into the movie—which in the age of 2+ hour run times is a bit of a problem. 

Sure, a lot of people struggle to sit through long movies; I mean I went to see Elvis in theatres and while it was great, sitting there for 2 hours and 39 minutes was not. But if you’re an avid TikTok user like myself, try sitting through a 15-minute youtube video without fiddling with something, getting distracted, or going on your phone. I used to spend hours watching YouTube videos, but now I’m lucky if I get through one vlog without retreating back to the depths of my ‘For You’ page. 

James Williams at Oxford University compares TikTok to a kid in a candy store—a place filled with immediate, fast pleasure. We have this unlimited access to quick entertainment, so why would we switch to watching a 12-episode TV show where half of the episodes are boring and the other half are entertaining? With TV and movies, we have to sit through the boring parts to get to what’s good, but when it comes to TikTok we can swipe away something we don’t like. 

Williams goes on to discuss how parts of the brain that concentrate on focus aren’t fully developed until the age of 25. So, when we spend all this time on 15-90 second videos, our underdeveloped levels of concentration begin to decrease more and more. 

Personally, I know I’m addicted to my phone, especially TikTok so I’ve found a few tips to help people like myself spend more time in real life rather than in a virtual world. 

  1. Become aware of your screen time. In your settings, take a look at how long you actually spend on your phone and specifically on TikTok. My screentime definitely shocked me considering how quickly I swipe through videos, since sometimes 3 hours a day on TikTok feels more like 20 minutes and the time just flies by.
  2. Implement restrictions within the TikTok or general settings app. Within your TikTok settings, you’re able to limit yourself to however long you want. Personally, I get a notification after being on TikTok for 20 minutes straight. While you can still use the app or snooze the notification for another 10 minutes, it definitely helps me to be aware of the amount of time I spend scrolling. 
  3. Start off slow. Maybe try reading for 15 minutes or try to watch one episode of a sitcom without reaching for your phone. Once you feel comfortable with that, increase the time to 30 minutes or a full-length film. I would also suggest placing your phone in a different room so you’re more aware of the fact that you’re getting up to use it.

Those are some of my biggest tips! Bonus point: remove any post notifications you don’t need. While TikTok can be fun, I need to prioritize my attention span not only when it comes to movies, but when doing school work and other important tasks. So hopefully I will soon be able to work more effectively and maybe even get through a film like “Gone With the Wind” without any phone breaks!

Victoria is a third-year Bachelor of Arts student at Queen's University studying English. She is also a lover of music, romcoms, Formula 1, and is always open to book recs!