Staff Writer: Roxanne Hepburn
“Here are three new cozy games I recommend….” Swipe. “Today is a no-bones day….” Swipe. Swipe. “The life of a typical….” Swipe. Swipe. Swipe. The background music changes with each swipe as the different creators choose various audios to best suit the message they are trying to get across, whether it be a joke, a story, a recommendation, or even something they deem serious.
As the budding social media platform TikTok grows in popularity, teens and young adults are spending hours creating and consuming content on the app. TikTok’s well-tailored algorithm aims to keep users on the app as long as possible as it adjusts to what users like and view. The way the app targets users through their interests spells out danger for those susceptible to procrastination. TikTok enables its users to scroll endlessly through a flow of fresh content, which can turn five minutes into an hour, into multiple hours spent on the app daily.
Recently, Forbes magazine reported that TikTok reached one billion active users on the app. These users include content creators and consumers alike. Generally, those roles tend to cross over as creators also consume content on the app. Content creator @Dreaming.of.ice.cream, who has 114.9K followers on TikTok, discussed her app usage and the differences between time spent on the app as a content creator versus a consumer: “[my average daily time on TikTok] couldn’t be more than two hours. My attention span will kind of sit there for maybe ten to fifteen minutes at a time before I switch to another app or stop getting distracted and go back to work. Except for the fact when I obviously am cosplaying. If I’m on a cosplay night, I’ll probably be on TikTok for a good couple hours in one sitting going through audios and recording videos.” Ice cream provides insight on how much time and effort is put into videos made by content creators on Tiktok. Creators will spend hours on their phones editing and tweaking their videos until deemed “perfect,” often putting off various other essential tasks in their life to achieve notoriety on the app.
Local young adults were asked to show the screentime function on their phones to reveal the data behind their TikTok usage. Screentime will record daily, and weekly average time spent on apps. The information provided by students about their time spent on TikTok was staggeringly similar as they reported a daily average of around one and half hours and a weekly average of four and a half hours. An outlier emerged from Dartmouth local, Jade Raposa, 25, when she elaborated on what it feels like to get carried away when using TikTok: “I’ll hop on Tiktok when it’s well past midnight, and I should already be asleep to open at work in the morning. I’ll scroll once or twice, and then it’s suddenly four am, and the morning birds are chirping outside.” She was, in fact, late to work the following day and blames Tiktok for keeping her up all night.
TikTok’s algorithm is what truly feeds its user’s addiction to the app. Rena Danho, a sophomore double majoring in animation game art and illustration at UmassD, describes content the algorithm provides her: “[my FYP] is filled with sad things and anime and trending audios and gaytok every so often. My algorithm is pretty built. I’ve been on TikTok for so long it seems to know me better than I know myself at this point.” TikTok has its users profiled to the point where it pushes so much content relevant to the user that they feel they cannot put their phone down. Users fear they will miss something genuinely relevant to them as it gets lost in the ever-expanding ocean of content on the app.