Is There a Connection Between TikTok and ADHD?

In 2012, the world was bestowed a new way to make kids excited and adults groan. This time instead of hacky sacks or JUULs, it was an app that was taking the world by storm. This app was known as… Angry Birds Space. OH GOD NO!! Just kidding, it’s TikTok. Man, do I hate this app, but I also kinda love it? Let me explain

Background

If you have never heard of this abomination before let someone who probably isn’t the right demographic break it down for ya. TikTok is an app that started back in 2012, but didn’t really gain a ton of popularity until 2018 when it merged with the ACTUAL worst app of all time, Musical.ly, an app where the douchey, Hollister model kids would lip-sync to the worst shit you could find on Top 40 radio. The app was mostly just an internet joke to a lot of people. For some reason though, once it merged with TikTok everyone flipped and raved over the app making it the most downloaded app of 2018 and 2019. The platform provided ways to combine the old Musical.ly lip-syncing with dance trends, comedy, weird talents, and advertising too comprised in a 60 second video.

Speaking of advertising, the advertising team behind this app deserves massive props because I could not avoid their ads if I tried. Watching YouTube? BOOM! Six seconds of unskippable, cringe-inducing TikTok ads. Scrolling through your Snapchat stories? BOOM! You get a ten second clip of a girl lip-syncing from Good Luck Charlie. Even on free app store games I would get interrupted by a duet video of two guys admiring a girl from behind putting up her ponytail only to be shocked that the girl was actually a dude. Ugh…

My Downfall

It wasn’t until last summer that TikTok kind of made its way into my generations’ phones. I couldn’t tell if it was ironic at first, but then I would be shown videos on the app from some of my coworkers and some of my friends had it too. Some of it was surprisingly hilarious. I kept trying to convince myself, no Campbell, don’t do it. You’re better than this. When I returned to college, to my dismay, my roommates would practice dances and quote all the annoying phrases that would pop up in viral trends. I didn’t mind. As long as I wasn’t a part of it that’s totally okay. So now I’ve had TikTok for five months and I still hate it, but it’s so bad that it’s good.

I had become what I had feared for months. I spent hours watching stupid clips of people doing different variations of Spongebob scenes, Donald Duck impressions, putting their mouths over a two-liter of Diet Coke with Mentos in it. It would be about midnight and that is prime time for scrolling through this irresistible bullshit. It is also the worst time to scroll through it. On multiple occasions my roommates would ask why I’m so tired. My answer was always TikTok *shudders*.

Why Write This Article?

I know at this point we are all sick of COVID talk, but quarantine inspired me to write this article. This time in isolation has helped me notice things about me that I didn’t realize before. While still in online school, I would sometimes not be able to sleep at night and sometimes have small anxiety attacks. I’ve spent so much time in my room for hours before so what makes it different? Besides the obvious reason for quarantine, I think my attention span has shrunk. I don’t know if this is solely due to this time period or if it was a growing thing overtime, but I knew something was up.

In a film class I took a few semesters ago, my professor had proposed a conversation about movie length. With the release of Avengers: Endgame last year, the length of the movie became a hot topic. The movie clocked in a little past three hours, which is pretty long for any film to be fair. My professor proposed the idea that our society nowadays has an increased amount of people with ADHD or behavior at least, which puts a blame on technology and television to an extent. The amount of quick cuts that is inserted into TV nowadays is ridiculous if you really pay attention to it. Take a look at commercials for sitcoms. CBS will air Thursday night promos that are all formatted the same way: quick cut, laugh tracked, and with at least two jokes. All under 30 seconds. Songs and albums too are often overlooked if their runtime is too long.

Do I think I have ADHD? No. I don’t think I do. I think that being contained may have made me feel squirmy and uncomfortable as I’m sure it has with others too. The connection between this and TikTok is the amount of content and algorithms that are presented on the app. TikTok has something I call a “like based” algorithm meaning it will cater recommended videos based on what you like and who you follow. It will rarely exit outside that territory. The front page when you open the app is the “For You” page, which presents this addictive quality since the app ‘knows you’ and what you like. I like a lot of dark-comedy and music related posts, so that’s exactly what I’ll get in my For You page.

Users are constantly uploading content everyday and some even have this as their full-time jobs (which is the biggest load of garbage). To make things even more inconvenient, it also uses location so it’ll recommend people in your state or even area in your For You page.

The Threat

TikTok is almost too user friendly. All this fast paced content coming all at once in under a minute can totally contribute to some attention issues in the future, especially with the younger users. These videos aren’t always 60 seconds, some could be less than ten or even three on rare occasions. It could be possible that this could develop impatience in longer videos or content that isn’t straight to the point. This was a problem with Vine when it was at its peak too. That platform was usually just seven seconds at most. I also spent hours on Vine too back in high school, but for some reason TikTok feels different. Who knows why that is, but there’s probably someone smarter out there that can give a better answer than me.

Conclusion

TikTok is an app that is equal parts toxic and addictive. I think that it is a great way for companies and celebrities to reach out to kids and teens alike. It’s also a great way to spread your talents and abilities. Many artists have found good fame with their songs being used as background in videos. I would’ve never found out about the artist SALES if it weren’t for the song Chinese New Year trending on the app. Artists like DaBaby, Doja Cat, and even Matthew Wilder from the 80’s has seen a growth in popularity thanks to the app.

The way I see it, TikTok is like alcohol or junk food, better in small doses. It’s okay to have it every once in a while, but if used in excess it might end up causing long term effects on the body and mind. I try to only use the app once a day for 30 minutes at most. There’s so many more important things we all could be doing than watching someone else do something. Get off your butt and climb a tree kid. Get out of bed dude, it’s 3 p.m. and you’re watching videos of kids blowing up water bottles. Wake up girl, you fell asleep to people hydro-dipping their AirPod cases.

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk I’ll do autographs in the tent outside the venue.

One of my favorite tracks from TikTok:

Published by cpetschke

College student, writer, music lover, listener, learner.

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