TikTok’s Impact on Our Attention Spans

TikTok could be the reason why you can’t stay focused anymore


Tala Areiqat

TikTok has taken over social media and our ability to pay attention.

Back in January, I saved this TikTok, which the user captioned about how the app has shortened their attention span. I recently rediscovered this buried in my old saved videos while procrastinating homework, and it struck me again: Why can’t I do anything for more than 30 minutes without going on TikTok? 

Since 2018, TikTok has become extremely popular, with over 80 million users in the U.S. alone and 850 million users worldwide. TikTok has wholly transformed social media and captivated everyone, including myself, with its easily accessible entertainment. Since the lockdown started this spring, most of us teens seem to spend the free time we have scrolling through the app. These past few months, like many (or at least I hope it’s not only me), I’ve spent nights in a trance, mindlessly scrolling through my “For You” page, which customizes content for users based on their past likes and other actions. This offers people a connection through practically any shared interests, whether it be politics, music, cooking, etc. 

But for all the connectivity the app brings us, TikTok has ruined our attention spans. 

Dr. Julie Albright, a sociologist and lecturer at the University of Southern California, said in an article in Forbes magazine that TikTok and platforms alike “have adopted similar principals that have made gambling addictive.” Albright explains that when you scroll through the app and see something that catches your attention, “you get that little dopamine hit… in the pleasure center of the brain. So you want to keep scrolling.” 

Of course, our shorter attention spans aren’t destroying our entire lives (that would be extremely dramatic). However, they are negatively affecting the smaller parts of our lives, like getting enough sleep and paying attention in virtual classes. Yes, TikTok is fun, but we cannot continue letting it get in the way of essential tasks. I know from experience that once you open the app, time can sometimes slip away from you and before you know it, it is an hour before your due date at 11:59 pm. 

Now that the school year is back in full swing, I think it is important to try and step away from TikTok before you have two tests and an essay all due on the same day and can’t stop yourself from scrolling. We can slowly start to repair our attention spans with self-control and other features like the screen time setting on iPhones, which allows us to set time limits on certain apps. Hopefully, we can see small improvements in our everyday lives that our TikTok attention spans may have affected.