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TikTok is changing phone behavior and affecting attention spans

TikTok is changing phone behavior and affecting attention spans
Leri Koen

Leri Koen

TikTok is one of the newest social media platforms, with the most rapid growth. Since its release in 2020, it has quickly risen to incredible heights and stands as a strong competitor to other social media giants like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. But along with this increase in popularity are also concerns regarding cognitive health and attention span.

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TikTok is so popular because the information it shows is so much different from other social sites. TikTok has a way of showing you who you’ve always been. YouTube and Instagram are hyper-mediated panels with screens within screens of content. You click on something, and you’re taken to a new screen to watch it. The suggestions are based on previous videos you’ve watched and an algorithm that shows you similar content. 

TikTok on the other hand can be compared to a full-screen diary showing your innermost desires. Part of this is because of the attachment we have to our phones and the fact that TikTok is definitely a mobile-dominant app. During the research, the team at Wired revealed that TikTok is much more personal because of this. YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms are often enjoyed on a wide range of devices, such as laptops and even TVs.

Another reason why TikTok is so popular is its short-form video content that’s easily digestible by users. This feature is so prevalent that other platforms started adding this to their features, such as YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels, and many others. However, along with this, there’s also an effect on the brain that has to be considered.

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Over the past few years, we’ve seen how attention spans have declined as information channels have evolved. The shorter content being preferred is starting to have a negative effect on attention spans. Even a short time on the social media platform can have an effect on a user’s concentration. Another study conducted by the Technical University of Denmark found that the constant stream of short-form information can drastically decrease our collective attention span.

Users have even noted that they used to be able to watch videos between 20-30 minutes while giving them their full attention. However, after some time on TikTok with only short-form videos, they now struggle to watch longer videos, even if it’s on a topic that interests them. It will be interesting to note if this will change when mobile games enter the TikTok-verse.

Does that mean you should stop using TikTok? No, it does not. TikTok has many beneficial qualities that make it a great platform, such as the emphasis it places on adult content related to mental health. It’s also one of the few social media platforms that show continued growth in the post-pandemic economical environment. Where other platforms like Facebook and Instagram had to make significant cost cuts that included layoffs, TikTok is staying steady.

Leri Koen

Leri Koen

Born and raised in South Africa I am the mother of two busy kids and one loving husband. Since leaving school I immediately started working and have been involved in many different industries where I learned a wide range of skills. Some of my skills range from marketing to management and even teaching special needs children, particularly those with severe developmental delays. I am a self-proclaimed holiday nut, taking any chance I can get to decorate and celebrate major holidays such as Easter, Halloween and Christmas, often planning these months in advance! I have a wide range of passions that I persue (as often as I can) such as reading, writing, bonsai, crafting, creating natural beauty products, listening to music and playing games (prefered platforms being PC and Xbox).

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