I recently deleted TikTok from my phone for what I think is the third time. The issue is I find myself rather hopelessly flicking through the videos, particularly the funny pet videos and comedy videos. Now normally it is in a moment of spare time that I think it is worth having a look at TikTok, however time then seems to fade away as I get engrossed and the couple of minutes of video viewing turns into 30mins or more.
Why does this happen?
I am not a psychologist or sociologist or other “ist” who can provide a scientific theory on this but I would like to share my own ideas on why this happens. Firstly, I think part of it is the multi-sensory nature of TikTok, with visual and audio content from the videos themselves, combined with the tactile nature of flicking through the videos. I also think the act of flicking through the videos helps to keep people engaged due to requiring user action.
There is also the very purposely designed short nature of the videos, often with a conclusion or series of amusing events. The short nature of videos limits the requirements for focus or concentration, while the conclusion is likely to deliver the fun or pleasurable moment at the end of the video.
So limited amount of focus needed combined with near instant gratification, or I engage and swipe onto the next video. Basically TikToks design is to be addictive and habit forming, offering little cognitive load but delivering enjoyment at the conclusion of every little short video.
Why delete it?
There is a lot of talk of how social media companies should be responsible and look at how addictive their platforms are especially for younger users however I also think we all as individuals need to also take some responsibility. In my case my approach to this is to delete the app as I cant trust myself to use TikTok sparingly. I could alternatively make us of app timers or similar to limit my usage of the app to a certain amount of time per day, however given the overall value of TikTok to me I have decided that this isnt appropriate. I will however note, I suspect young users will find such an act of self-discipline even more difficult than I found it.
I think we need to acknowledge that the key aim, from a business perspective of the various social media applications, including TikTok, is to maximise the number of people of their platform and to maximise the time people spend on their platform. As such it pays to make it addictive.
Am not sure my life will be that much worse off without TikTok but in a world where we often complain of not having enough time, and where we cannot invent or create more time (Note: am not sure that actually having 26hrs in a day would provide that much benefit as I suspect our current activities would just grow to fill the additional space), being able to free up some time by preventing myself from going down the TikTok rabbit hole can only be a good thing.
Or at least until I suffer a moment of boredom, depression or just simply human weakness, and reinstall TikTok once more, just to make sure I don’t miss out on a cat falling off the back of someone’s couch, or a dog comically bounding into a swimming pool.