Just One More Swipe

Barbora Curillova, Writer

TikTok is an addiction.

Now at first, you might think that statement is a bit extensive, and that TikTok is practically harmless, but the app has been meticulously designed to hook you from the start and make it something your body desires and eventually needs. 

Have you ever been on your phone watching TikToks and you start realizing that you’ve been sitting there for quite a while but you cannot seem to get yourself to stop swiping and get off your phone? Or have you ever been trying to do some work when you suddenly get the urge to pick up your phone and immediately click on the TikTok app? Those are your first signs of addiction. 

But how has watching some random videos on the Internet suddenly become an addiction? Well, the creators of the app knew exactly what they were doing when they designed it. TikTok makes you watch 15 to 60 second videos that usually cause a short burst of dopamine to be released into your brain, giving you a feel-good sensation. With every swipe, your body starts to get used to the pleasurable hormones being released. “You’ll just be in this pleasurable dopamine state, carried away,” said Dr. Julie Albright in an interview with Forbes magazine. “It’s almost hypnotic, you’ll keep watching and watching.” 

So when you stop swiping, your body misses it. It misses it so much that it starts craving the next release of dopamine that comes from you scrolling through TikTok. Over time, your body will subtly force you to not stop swiping or to pick up your phone and go to the app. 

There is also the sensation of “just one more swipe” that connects a TikTok addiction to a gambling addiction. This is because it has what is called “random reinforcement” which is essentially that sometimes you win (see a good video that causes the release of dopamine) and sometimes you lose (see a video that doesn’t cause the pleasurable reaction). The possible win causes your brain to ignore the loss and expect a win. So if you see a video that you did not enjoy that much (a loss), your brain tells you to swipe, knowing there is a big chance of seeing a good video (a win). Then when you watch a video you like, it enforces the desire to continue swiping because your brain gets greedy. 

On top of that, TikTok’s algorithm is personalized to every user, making the wins more likely and strengthening the addiction. 

Frequent usage of the app has been shown to be quite dangerous as experts have noticed that it can shorten our generation’s attention span. The average length of videos on TikTok is between 20 to 40 seconds. Over time, this makes our brains able to focus for only short periods of time which causes long-term effects that impact people’s daily lives by compromising our ability to focus on tasks such as watching longer videos, doing homework, or any other type of work that requires our brains to stay focused for a greater period of time.

Now, I don’t want this article to completely terrify you and keep you from using the app because it is still a fun app to use. Though it is addictive, if you can control the hours you spend on it by giving yourself a time limit and ensuring that it isn’t the only way you spend your free time, then you shouldn’t be scared of using it. And, if anything, just be aware that, like with any new technology, it comes with its risks.