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TikTok: Should You Delete It?

Culture

Leaving social media is something huge for younger people, as newer generations use apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and Tiktok to express themselves. Many Americans are relying on it for connection during the coronavirus pandemic. Many people have been found leaving social media, and unexpectedly, it does wonders for them, including me. Kate Rosenblatt, a therapist and senior clinical manager at the online therapy platform Talkspace stated that many of her clients deleted their social media or took similar extended digital detoxes. Digital minimalism, as they realized, could do wonders for their mental health. Tiktok specifically, is very dangerous, as the algorithm is made for people to keep scrolling on the app as long as possible. Here's why this is dangerous to both mental and physical health.

Attention span

The brain is like plastic; in other words, it changes over time, rewiring and creating new connections. Social Media changing your attention span does not sound that crazy. Neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez Psy.D. tells Bustle that you're actually in pursuit of dopamine when scrolling through TikTok; feelings of pleasure cause you to continue finding another video. Multiple studies have shown that too much TikTok can also be bad for the brain. With more than 689 million active users worldwide, TikTok users spend more than ten hours per week on the platform. Tiktok videos have also been linked to decreased attention spans after being on the app for more than ninety minutes.

"After spending more time on TikTok, I noticed that when I tried to watch a long YouTube video, my interest disappeared in a matter of minutes. I could feel my patience running thin even though I was genuinely interested in the video."

This can cause people to speed up videos to watch faster and, with a music video, could finish quicker.

"A study, titled Accelerating Dynamics of Collective Attention published in Nature Communications, showed a dramatic decrease in the attention span of people over time.

"Researchers from the Technical University of Denmark pointed out that a 2013 hashtag on average stayed on top for 17.5 hours, but in 2016, a top hashtag only stayed for an average of 11.9 hours."

The app tracks people's interests to make them scroll on the app longer. “We found that TikTok only needs one of these to figure out how long you linger over a piece of content. Every second you hesitate or rewatch, the app tracks you. Low attention span can lead to poor performance at work or school and the inability to complete daily tasks. Chewing gum, exercising, and meditation have been found to be helpful in increasing attention span.

Dangerous

Tiktok has had many serious trends that can lead to very dangerous situations. A recent trend, the Devious Lick, encouraged students to steal and vandalize school property, leading to many students being arrested. Another challenge, the Penny challenge, led to people dropping a penny between a wall socket and a plug. Although it does not sound dangerous, it has started a lot of house fires. Many other challenges on Tiktok have ended with nasty injuries.

Some experts believe that TikTok’s algorithm can promote content related to depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, according to CBS News. Students with higher scores for TikTok use disorder performed worse on both the forward and backward digit span tests, according to a questionnaire that was distributed among 3,036 high school students in China. These students also had higher scores for depression, anxiety, and stress. Social media can affect not only teenagers but also middle-aged people. Based on a series of surveys of 5,395 adults whose average age was 56, it was found that people who were using Facebook, TikTok, and Snapchat were more likely to come back and tell us they felt depressed the next time they filled out the survey. Especially during the pandemic, social media were filling a void for a lot of people. Social media showed people seemingly living their best lives on social media, which may remind people of what they've been missing this past year.

Safety

TikTok can easily be exploited by predators to take advantage of minors because the app makes it painless for strangers to direct messages to children. Although it is a fun app for creating humorous videos, there are always problems, like how Tricia Cuthbertson, a mom, told NBC News her daughter’s friend downloaded TikTok onto her daughter’s phone, and in a matter of an hour, she has 20 followers, all men, and they were starting to make [inappropriate] comments.

"A large community of adult users on TikTok soliciting nude photos from kids. Some of those users even sent explicit videos to children."

The app is also known to have other security concerns, such as data leaks, India banned TikTok and several apps from China, citing security concerns. "The unsecured database left almost 235 million Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube user-profiles exposed online in what can only be described as a massive data leak. Researchers say the massive data leak included fields like profile name, full real name, profile photo, and account description.

"Popular TikTok users have an increased digital footprint and their potential risk of falling victim to phishing attacks. Criminals can target high profile users and impersonate their accounts to send fraudulent messages to other users."

It may be difficult to fully delete your social media account; 91% of 16 to 24-year-olds use the internet and social networking sites regularly. Limiting the amount of time being spent on the app by putting your phone away before bed, taking a week off from social media, keeping track of the amount of time spent on your phone, and other ways will not only improve your mood but will also help your attention span.

Angelina Manoj
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Angelina is a Junior in high school and is a passionate writer and artist. If she isn't writing, you can find her reading, painting, or playing her violin.