October 3, 2023

Is Tik Tok Affecting Your Attention Span?

By Ruby Lewis

It is no doubt that social media has impacted our mental health and attention spans over the years. It feels like each year social media affects us more and more. The pandemic highlighted how social media can connect people and bring us closer; however, now that we are back to being in-person, do we still spend as much time on social media? 

Tik Tok specifically grew in popularity during the pandemic because it provided fun content you could watch or even create in your living room. However, Tik Tok is not designed for long attention spans and provides quick entertainment that can turn into hours of scrolling through videos. I remember when I was in high school, everyone was very interested in Youtube and watching long daily vlogs. I honestly think they were entertaining because they highlighted people’s fun and exciting lives. Now, it seems that daily vlogs are losing popularity as well as Youtube in general. Favorite creators such as Emma Chamberlin and Jenna Marbles “quit” Youtube which led to a decrease in views across the platform. 

However, the loss of popular creators is not the only reason for the decline of Youtube. An article by Insider Influencer examined and compared the stats of Tik Tok and Youtube over the years. They found that although Youtube is still statistically more popular, Tik Tok is beginning to rise in each generation with Gen Z being the highest. But why is that? 

In an article by The New York Post journalist Shiv Sudhakar shares how Tik Tok is negatively impacting younger generations, especially with the personalized “For You” pages. Studies found that personally curated posts lead to longer time spent on the app rather than trendy videos.  In a study by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Dr.  John Hutton said, “TikTok is a dopamine machine. If you want kids to pay attention, they need to practice paying attention.” Tik Tok’s personalized algorithm gives us dopamine because it is customized for us. It is a very smart way to increase views and app users, but just like each social media platform, there are downsides to its popularity. 

However, with all the negativity, Tik Tok has contributed a lot of positivity as well. It has helped connect several people with duet videos, stitching and just sharing fun content. It has also been a great resource of information and staying on top of current events. It has helped several companies develop more brand awareness and promote products. I think it also connects us with celebrities in a way we haven’t before. They might feel more comfortable posting fun and silly content, which hones in on the idea of connecting everyone through one relatable platform. But is being connected virtually, really connected?

17 thoughts on “Is Tik Tok Affecting Your Attention Span?

  1. Hi, Ruby! I really like the way you described how the very thing that makes TikTok so successful is the same thing that makes it bad for our attention spans. Having such a personalized algorithm makes the app a lot of fun to scroll, but it is always hard for me to put the phone down once I get going.

  2. Great post Ruby! It was interesting reading about the study by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Dr. John Hutton said, “TikTok is a dopamine machine.” The curated posts is exactly the reason people spend hours scrolling, because they are watching videos that interest them! Oddly enough, I never really thought about that- I feel like that is the same across all mediums now and that’s why people are spending so much more time scrolling these days.

  3. Hi Ruby,
    I really enjoy your insights on this educated question. I agree with many of your points. I feel that Tik Tok is a dopamine machine, as said by John Hutton.. I think that because of this the platform does suck our time away as we want to keep scrolling in order to watch all the videos that make us happy. This could be a threat to our attention span, as I have felt myself unable to pay attention to thing that are of un interest to me for certain periods of time.

  4. Hi Ruby,
    With TikTok having taken over post quarantine, the platform has to be negatively affecting our attention spans in someway especially due to the increase in trends that children are feeling the need to keep up with. With videos being so short and fast-paced, it seems like a valid reason as to why children struggle to participate in long-term activities. While this is dependent on the type of “fyp” that you have curated to you, not all of the videos on the app are detrimental to our attention spans as some are quite informative and can also be used as a sort of news outlet.

  5. Hi Ruby,
    I find this blog post to be very accurate & real with the idea that social media is harmful. While we can control our feed & make it a positive scroll, the structure is detrimental to attention spans as well as quick hits of dopamine. It will be interesting to see how future generations cope & live with the impact of social media.

  6. Tik Tok is most definitely drains users attention spans. It shortens their ability to focus and will continue to do so as long as it is poorly managed. Tik Tok and other social media platforms are dangerous to viewers and need to be better regulated. Excellent work!

  7. Ruby!! So true.
    Tik tok is sneaky too they hide the time so anytime I would open it I would get sucked in. I think it absolutely destroyed my attention span. I would skip to the next tik tok after like 1-2 seconds of seeing one. I will admit I did have a lot of fun on that app and I am sure there are creators on there who make long, informative videos with hours of production going into them but I ended up having to delete the app due to my absolute need for it! It’s so interesting how they were able to make such an entertaining platform be the source of people’s attention for so long!

  8. Hi Ruby, I love this post. I have also recognized this change in our attention span over time. One thing I also noticed is that the sound bites used in Tik Tok is also affecting how people are creating music. The nature of one part of a song needing to be catchy to get views gives people less incentives to write longer songs. Why would people want to write a 5 minute songs if they only need a 45-minute clip to become famous. Certainly an interesting shift. Thank you for highlighting this!

  9. TikTok is definitely affecting our attention spans and so much more. I believe that the app has opened the door to a completely new form of communication and connection between people across the world, which has its benefits and risks. Though the 15 second videos quickly became 30 seconds maximum, then now at a whole minute as an option on TikTok. As of now, I’ve seen 3 minute videos on TikTok’s application. I’m curious if the effects — positive or negative — are more intentional than we believe.

  10. Hello Ruby,

    I have often wondered if these types of platforms impacted my attention span. The For You page seems like a good idea but by consistently drawing in the younger generations it will effect their overall quality of life. By spending time on the app rather than socializing I wonder if it will effect how the generation as a whole understands and interprets socialization. Very interesting article!

  11. This was one of those blog posts I didn’t want, but probably needed. I totally relate to watching long YouTube vlogs in the past. Now the most I can do is turn on a YouTube video in the background as I work on something else! But when it comes to TikTok, I have absolutely no problem scrolling and watching attentively for hours. It makes total sense to me that a customized FYP would result in more time spent on the app (hats off to the app creators for that one). It’s even crazier though to think of the physical effect on our body through dopamine release.

  12. Hi Ruby!
    I have never thought about the impact of TikTok and how it effects our attention spans. In high school I would always watch youtube videos as well and now I don’t even remember the last time I watched one. TikTok is so much easier to use because the posts are just short videos and the feed is never ending. This post was super interesting!

  13. Hi Ruby,
    I have never thought about the impact of TikTok and how it effects our attention spans. In high school I would always watch youtube videos as well and now I don’t even remember the last time I watched one. TikTok is so much easier to use because the posts are just short videos and the feed is never ending. This post was super interesting!

  14. I heard that Tik Tok’s most popular video style is 5 seconds. If the video you watch is longer, people will scroll right past it. This means their attention spans are getting shorter but people spend hours scrolling on tik tok without a thought for how long it has been. This means they lose a sense of time as well. This is an interesting concept that tik tok has created where they are addicted to short attention span videos.

  15. This is such a great read! I personally get stuck on TikTok for hours and hours and skip through a bunch because my brain gets bored after 3 seconds. I really liked how you added the study as well to back up your article!

  16. Ruby — I enjoyed the points you brought to discussion in your blog post. I agree that social media is a blessing and a curse since it connects communities together and provides and outlet for self-expression; however, it can become extremely addictive as well. I find myself becoming engulfed by the TikTok FYP for hours upon hours which has certainly contributed to my short attention span in real-life. Following the pandemic, I feel that it would be helpful to scale back on my social media usage to be more present to life occurring around me. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Dear Ruby,
    For some reason I have been leary of venturing into TikTok. My daughter was here at x-mas and was having fun makind post with my vintage elves and kept sharing cute post with me. I can see how it could raise your serotonin. I do still have some concerns though. My daughter doctors up cute post of my little granddaughter, but I can’t help but wonder what affect that will have on all our futures. TikTok can be as entertaining as addictive.

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