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The TikTok Trap: How the addictive app is actively ruining our attention spans

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

Just like most young people today, I consider myself quite addicted to the popular app called TikTok. Calling it an addiction may seem dramatic or perhaps far-fetched to some people. You may think that you simply enjoy the app and like scrolling through videos in your free time. I followed this notion for quite some time until I imagined what it would be like to never have TikTok again. Scarily, this provoked panic in me, as I, too, have become dependent on the quick boosts of dopamine that TikTok gives. However, now, I realize how this “addiction” goes far beyond the scope of being on your phone too much.

The Severed Attention Span:

I used to be someone who loved watching movies with family, friends or even just myself after a long school day. I would get lost in the complex, long plot lines and would enjoy the peace that sitting down to watch a film would provide me.

However, as I grew older and downloaded TikTok, everything changed. The hours spent on TikTok were subconsciously ruining my attention span without me even knowing it. The standard TikTok lasts around 15 seconds, meaning users constantly scroll through short videos that grab their attention. This action of endless scrolling is an addiction in a way, as your mind constantly craves new bursts of dopamine through the videos you are watching, mimicking the effect of dopamine received from drugs. 

I have found my attention span to have suffered tremendously due to using TikTok. Films are harder to watch, and even focusing in class can be difficult at times. In addition to the short-form video format, TikTok also affects our short-term memory and, most importantly, the ability to focus on tasks or videos longer than the 15 seconds we are leashed by.  

What Makes TikTok Different?

Social Media Psychology states, “TikTok is a platform driven by social voyeurism. One study found that user-generated content is the most addictive type of content for young people who practically come on the app to binge on the lives of strangers.”

TikTok does a great job of disconnecting users from their reality. Users are constantly being fed the lives of others while not having to truly reflect on the amount of content they consume, as scrolling habits have become second nature.

For my friends and me, TikTok is a fun distraction from life’s hardships, where we can make silly dances or watch funny videos. But that’s the trap. It’s a distraction from reality and a way to escape from your own troubles and negative thoughts.

Limiting my TikTok usage will be a challenge, and truthfully it will take willpower not to slip into the habit of opening the app and letting the daylight go by as my finger scrolls, almost robotically. James Williams, author of Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy, quoted in the New York Post, states, “We have an endless flow of immediate pleasures that’s unprecedented in human history.”

Limiting screen time can be a step in the right direction. Recognizing that TikTok does have addictive tendencies is crucial for users so we can begin adopting a healthier relationship with it. Like any other dependency, finding methods to separate ourselves from the object will help us in the future. Taking time to go outside, cook a nice meal or spend some one-on-one time with your friends are all helpful replacements for scrolling through TikTok.

There’s no bad time to start mending your relationship with social media, and it’s never too late. If you feel like you can’t understand why you may have been feeling off, consider altering your social media usage. It is far deeper linked to how you feel than you may realize.

Olga Bergmans

Toronto MU '25

My name is Olga Bergmans and I am a second-year journalism student at TMU University! When I’m not writing, you’ll most likely catch me at a coffee shop downtown Toronto, or exploring different food spots in the city!