What is it about TikTok that makes it so addictive

In this day and age, with everything going on in the world, more and more people are turning to social media to escape from the constant barrage of bad news.

Whether it’s dancing your heart out on TikTok or losing yourself in the latest trends, there’s no denying that social media can help take your mind off things for a while.

TikTok and Facebook application  on screen Apple iPhone XR
What is it about TikTok that makes it so addictive? Photo: Getty

But did you know there’s a specific algorithm designed to get you hooked on those complicated and fun dance challenges and hilarious memes?

Why It’s So Easy To Get Addicted To Social Media

TikTok has more engagement per user than Instagram, with users spending an average of 41 minutes per day on the app.

As with other social media platforms, like Instagram and Facebook, TikTok’s algorithm selects content suitable for users which coincides with their viewing habits.

The team of addiction specialists at Private Rehab Clinic, Delamere, have shared their insights on why TikTok is so addictive and how to recognise when your usage develops into addiction.

TikTok launched all the way back in 2016, and has since gained more than 1 billion monthly active users, making it one of the most popular social media platforms in the world.

The key to its success is the endless cycle of short-form videos, which last for around 15-60 seconds.

Content Just For You

The content is targeted towards each individual specifically, with the likes, shares and comments feeding into a recommendation algorithm, which then evaluates how suitable a video is for each user and reflects the user’s interests.

This means that quick check on your fave band’s TikTok page can suddenly turn into a 3 hour trip down the TikTok rabbit hole of on-trend content.

tiktok dance
TikTok’s algorithm selects content suitable for users which coincides with their viewing habits. Photo: Getty

The ‘For You’ page on TikTok is also designed for you to scroll through an endless amount of targeted videos with little to no wait time. You simply swipe to get to the next short, snappy video.

This can be seriously addictive and is a contrast to other social media such as YouTube, where users are often watching longer content and often have to deal with the dreaded advertisements.

Short and BitterSweet Content

Another reason TikTok can become addictive is the use of short videos or “micro-entertainment”. Basically, the videos are so short you don’t realise how long you’re spending on the app.

The social media platform allows its users to both create and watch short video content that is primarily 15 seconds in length.

Content is short, fun and on-trend. You’re having such a good time, that it’s easy to lose track of it.

But when does it really become a problem?

Signs of Social Media Addiction

The team at Delamere state that if you’re experiencing negative emotions, it may be time to put the phone down.

“Our body releases dopamine when people favourably interact with us on social media, whether that’s from likes or comments.

"However, constantly refreshing your feed to track likes by the minute or getting real pleasure from online attention may be a cause for concern.”

If you find that using social media is also interfering with your life, such as your work or education, it’s time to do a digital detox.

Becoming socially isolated, missing scheduled appointments or important events or having feelings of guilt over how much time you’re spending online can also indicate you have a social media addiction.

addicted to social media
If you’re experiencing negative emotions, it may be time to put the phone down. Photo: Getty

Alarmingly, there has also been a surge of social media users complaining of tics, and this is just one example of social media addiction having physical effects on the body.

Extensive social media usage can lead to problems such as back and neck pain, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome. It can also lead to issues with your vision or insomnia.

People who are addicted to social media can also forget to bathe or shower, leading to personal hygiene neglect, and some even forget to eat and/or sleep, becoming socially isolated.

Hip Pocket Shuffle

No, that’s not the name of a new TikTok dance trend, but the impact of your social media addiction on your finances.

While many social media platforms are free, they can still be an expensive habit.

As social platforms are full of swipe ups, sponsored posts and ads, they can quickly make an impact on your bank balance.

If you find it difficult to resist online ads or find yourself making excessive purchases and having to shuffle your bills around to meet your debts, limit your usage.

Help for Social Media Addiction

Martin Preston, from Delamere, says just because internet addiction does not involve a substance as such, it does not make it any less damaging.

But there is help available.

“Cognitive behavioural therapies combined with other evidence-based therapies to treat the underlying causes of the problem often prove to be the most successful in terms of internet addiction.”

Mental health support for yourself or a loved one can be found by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 789 978, or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. Online support is available via Beyond Blue.

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