Between Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and many other social media platforms, it seems as if “staying connected” went from phone calls to ‘liked’ posts. During these solitary times, social media usage has spiked by around 9%, and while that doesn’t seem like a huge number, it means there were 298 million new social media users during 2020. Even though these platforms are keeping people connected, teenagers may be in need of a lesson on how to disconnect from their phones. By now everyone has heard of TikTok, or at least seen the effects it has on teenagers striving to learn the newest dance before the trend is over. However teenagers aren’t the only audience this app caters to; because of the diverse content, 62% of TikTok users are aged between 10 and 29. The app is known to have a genus algorithm that caters to everyone’s wants in the form of 10 to 60 second videos that keep the brain stimulated with popular music and appealing visuals. Everyone has heard arguments against social media, but with the rise of TikTok, people need to discuss the toxic culture breeding in the app.
According to Newsweek, the average screen time for teenagers per day in 2019 was 7.4 hours- not including time spent on education. That statistic alone is enough ground to say this generation spends too much time on the internet and the side effects are damaging. The average TikTok user spends around an hour on the app a day, but its highly addictive setup leads teens to spend countless hours scrolling through the videos. These short compelling videos have proven to negatively affect people’s attention spans. Being fed new content every 15 seconds wires the brain to only pay attention to those 15 seconds. The layout of this app hides the clock at the top of smartphones, making every effort at time management harder to achieve for users. Between short, ever-changing videos and no way of telling the time, it is easy to see why this app has such a big portion of the population hooked.
With such a large number of active users posting and an algorithm that seems to know its audience, there is something for everyone on this app. Whether you’re looking for a dance video or a rundown on social issues, everything is found on TikTok. A lot of videos that go viral are ones that spread “important information” about current issues and events. Information about George Floyd and Brianna Taylor’s murders reached a large audience on that app and served as a useful way to learn about these topics without having to do any research yourself. Although this has proven itself useful, it also raises concern about the integrity of some information spread on this app. If Wikipedia is considered an invalid source of information because anyone could edit it, why do so many people trust TikTok as their main source of information? The answer is simple: laziness.
It is much more convenient to happen upon some pressing news condensed into a 15 second video than it is to do your own research or put on the depressing news and listen to reporters drone on about a topic. This convenience is the doom of so many teenagers in our generation. “TikTok has in the past been a breeding ground for false reports that spread peer to peer,” said Angelo Carusone in an NPR interview, the president of Media Matters and an expert on rightwing extremism and misinformation. Users have consumed so much information through this app that they trust every strange video they see on the “For You” page. These teens are becoming gullible and making themselves easy victims to whoever wants to play a sick social experiment. Due to the TikTok algorithm, the more people that see the video, the more the false information spreads.
Social media has been a source of anxiety and insecurity for teenagers ever since MySpace was big and TikTok does nothing to break toxic patterns. Weak attempts to promote positivity are rooted in performatism, making no difference in the negative stress inducing experience teens put themselves through because the ugly truth is wrapped in a beautiful exterior that promises entertainment and a nice mask for insecurity. The growth of the app TikTok adds to the many consequences of social media usage, but the effects are extreme and only becoming more and more obvious.