Terrifyingly Troublesome: TikTok

Ryan Heshmati

November 11, 2022

Having already written about device overuse in "Another Generations Cigarettes" months ago, it seems confusing why I want to tackle the problem again. Device addiction is a general problem with many sub-issues; here, I want to tackle an increasingly concerning one: TikTok. The app, owned by Chinese ByteDance, calls itself "…THE destination for mobile videos," for a good reason; Business of Apps notes, "TikTok had 1.2 billion monthly active users in Q4 2021and is expected to reach 1.8 billion by the end of 2022." TikTok is famous, maybe even too popular, and users are getting hooked.

One Saratoga High School student, hereby referred to as "Kevin," who agreed to share his screen time information with the Journal on condition of not using his name, shared that in one recent week, he spent over thirty-nine hours on TikTok. Over thirty-nine hours. Over one and a half days. Over two thousand three hundred minutes. No matter the unit of time used, the amount of time spent in one week on the app is shocking and troubling. TikTok is not just a video-viewing platform; it is much more impressive.

TikTok can narrow down what users want and provide a feed tailored to their specific desires. Every action taken on the app, from videos created to comments made, is used to personalize each user's feed. This algorithm's methods of specializing each feed to each user can help explain how one can find themselves spending as much time on the app as Kevin. Hooking over a billion users this way may be an impressive feat for a business but a disturbing reality for society.

Many negatives have been noted as potential consequences of TikTok overuse. TikTok receives criticism for harboring predators, promoting unhealthy eating behavior, and hurting its users' mental health. The Wave Clinic's piece on TikTok asserts the platform is capable of "…inadvertently exacerbating symptoms of anxiety and depression." In 2022, where, according to Mental Health America, almost one in five adults experience mental illness issues, every potential cause must be scrutinized. 

TikTok is incredibly popular, and forecasts indicate it will remain so. While Kevin's thirty-nine-hour week may be extreme, it emphasizes the platform's profound grip on its users. The dangers of the rise of TikTok are real, and it is up to users and their lawmakers to decide what steps must be taken to protect those who have the app.