TikTok took the internet by storm in September of 2016. But that was not where its publicity started. The famous app was originally known as Musical.ly, when it launched back in July of 2014. Musical.ly was an app where users could make videos of themselves using different sounds. A few years later, the app was shut down by the owner, Alex Zhu, as the company merged with TikTok. Many fans were not pleased with this transition and in turn deleted the app. Although, a few years later, users began to crave the social media platform, consequently redownloading it. Hence, in October of 2018, TikTok was awarded the #1 most downloaded app in the world. On TikTok, there is a FYP (For You Page) solely dedicated to random content that the app thinks users might enjoy. There is also a following page that has videos of people users are subscribed to. One could call the app an endless scrolling abyss as the videos last only a few seconds; but why exactly are users so addicted?
Is it the catchy songs or dances? Or perhaps the watching of memes for others? One reason why this app is so attention seeking is quite frankly because of the length of the videos. Users do not have to invest their time in watching videos unlike Youtube of Netflix. All they have to do is approximately every 15 seconds, swipe and like – it is that simple. Another cause of this addiction is the level of dopamine the brain receives after seeing something that makes it happy. When users scroll through a feed and encounter a video that brings them joy, the sensory neurons transport those feelings to integrate in the brain where it releases dopamine. According to an interview with Dr. Julie Albright conducted by one of the editor’s from Forbes Magazine, she stated, “You’ll just be in this pleasurable dopamine state, carried away. It’s almost hypnotic, you’ll keep watching and watching” (Romero). As a teenager living in a world with prevalent occurrences of stress and anxiety, dopamine is a rarity. The final reason why users are obsessed with TikTok is because the formula of the app imitates a slot machine. When users scroll through their feed, it is a lucky guess for the app if it picks a topic that the users may enjoy. The more and more users double tap to like their favorite content, the more likely it will be for them to “win the slot machine.”
Now do users understand why TikTok is addicting and went viral in 2018? As a TikTok user myself, I sure know I do and now I need to resolve a serious problem. With users average watch time of 50 minutes per day – at the very least – sounds like unhealthy behavior. From the short intriguing videos, to the levels of dopamine invoked when watching, and the addictive slot machine formula, it is safe to say TikTok has truly made its mark on users all over the globe.
Carson, Biz. “How a Failed Education Startup Turned into Musical.ly, the Most Popular App You’ve Probably Never Heard of.” Business Insider, 28 Mar. 2016, www.businessinsider.com/what-is-musically-2016-5. Accessed 20 Sept. 2020.
Koetsier, John. “Digital Crack Coacaine: The Science Behind TikTok’s Success.” Forbes, 18 Jan. 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/johnkoetsier/2020/01/18/digital-crack-cocaine-the-science-behind-tiktoks-success/#6b86dd5478be. Accessed 20 Sept. 2020.
Romero, Sarah. “Why is TikTok so Popular?” Mega Interesting, www.megainteresting.com/techno/article/why-is-tiktok-so-popular-901581513204. Accessed 20 Sept. 2020.