TikTok Has Hijacked Our Attention Spans


Today’s world of online content is one that has changed over the decades from small home movies to videos that are nearly cinematic. From 2-hour-long self-made movies to TV show reviews that last up to 8 hours, these videos can take hundreds of hours to edit, voice, and research. In addition, online content has to be enjoyable. This can require pulling readers in with facts or other interesting information and often the use of humor to engage the audience.

There is one platform above all that draws in audiences, and that is the fast-paced content on TikTok.

TikTok is a social media platform that only allows video content filmed in portrait mode. Videos can last from roughly a few seconds to a minute. The platform has a pretty interesting story. Originally named Musical.ly, it came out around April 2014 and worked the same way as the current TikTok, using audio mixed with short videos to create all kinds of content. In 2017, Musical.ly was bought out by a company known as Bytedance Technology Co., and after that it was renamed TikTok. This is truly when TikTok boomed as a social media platform.

There are a couple of reasons for the rise that TikTok has had in contrast to YouTube, mainly that TikTok is easy to use and to watch. Anyone with a phone can record a video and edit it within minutes, while YouTube requires external software and other applications to create videos. Watching content is even easier. TikTok’s algorithm continually supplies new content, and all viewers need to do is swipe to continue accessing videos. This benefits creators on TikTok too, because the views and watch time are inflated due to how easy it is for viewers to find new content. On YouTube, the use of a menu with thumbnails and titles for each video requires more thinking from the audience.

TikTok has been in the news lately as the U.S. Congress questions them about their practices. But spyware and disgusting trends are nowhere near TikTok’s biggest issue. There is something far worse affecting people more and more, and that is the impact of TikTok on our minds and attention spans. Starting off, kids’ minds are being entangled by TikTok, more than half of all users are kids from 10-18. Now, this might sound good and all, but there is a major difference between TikTok users and TikTok creators. TikTok users just watch the content, but TikTok creators create the content. Due to how TikTok handles length of videos, many information-based TikToks can be rushed. This can mess with developing minds and even the minds of adults. Within the last few years, there has been a major shift in the attention span demanded by online content. People want content at the snap of their fingers, and that desire has been created by Tiktok’s fast pace.

This habit can have some major detrimental effects on individuals and society, from the loss of patience to the loss of longer media like documentaries or in-depth reviews, as people would much rather take the easier option of minute-long video explaining a situation. From my own experience, I have noticed this shift and downtrend. When people my age or younger are shown longer videos, even YouTube length, they seem to have lost that patience with longer online content. A majority of these viewers are TikTok users. There have even been research papers talking about this exact problem. This can affect day-to-day activities and even how our generation perceives the world around us. My only hope is that this piece can make you think of family members or friends around you who do use TikTok, and that you keep in mind the consequences of spending too much time on it.