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TikTok is by far the most popular app in the world, and with that sentiment, it is also the biggest vacuum of time. Watching short videos every day for hours on end, and before you know it, it’s nearly time for bed. Only to wake up and do it all over again like some sick cyber–Groundhog Day, just with different and comparably useless (although somewhat entertaining) videos to pass the time with. I am going to discuss my personal experience with TikTok, how spending hours on this app is detrimental to our mental health, and how and why we need to break out of this TikTok cycle we are all stuck in. 

tiktok addict
iPhone safe

Social Media Obsession

Before I had TikTok, I bought a timed safe to stop my self-diagnosed social media obsession. It allowed me to set a timer, put my phone inside, and lock the box for however long I desired. I saw the idea on ‘The Social Dilemma’, a Netflix documentary about our social media addictions and how data is collected about us to keep us on these apps for longer. From that day I recognised that my obsession was becoming a problem and decided I needed to fix it.

I left my phone in there once for two whole days, which I thought would be extremely difficult, but after the first 4 hours, I got used to it, although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a sudden urge to go on my phone every now and then. While I would recommend doing this to stay off your phone, it isn’t the greatest idea if you could be expecting an important phone call, or you need your phone for an emergency.

teen tiktok addict

Oh dear, here comes TikTok 🙂

Fast forward a few years and the king of all social media had brought back my addiction even stronger than ever. I had developed a tennis-match sort of relationship with TikTok, where I was constantly deleting and redownloading the app while I was at university. It was a major distraction from work and resulted in a lot of unwanted procrastination. Unfortunately, it had also ruined my attention span, even watching TV shows and films, which was once a leisurely and enjoyable activity became tiresome. My brain had become so accustomed to the short TikTok format that I got bored and didn’t continue watching, which infuriated me.

I wanted to refrain from using my phone and without the protection of a safe. If I could withstand days without a phone, then surely, I could do the same with TikTok right?

I wanted to change that.

For three weeks now TikTok has been deleted from my phone – the longest I haven’t seen it when I open my phone and to be honest, I can’t see myself wanting to see it there again.

Note: Some people have more willpower than others so I am not expecting everyone to delete TikTok from their phone, you can set time limits if you feel like you need it.

Here are some tips that have helped me with breaking this TikTok cycle:

As a first step it is vital to acknowledge the root of the issue:

TikTok relies on instant gratification. Our brain is not used to taking in lots of different types of information so quickly, where these short-lived, quickfire ‘gratifications’ that our brain consumes in such a short period of time can’t keep up with what is considered a ‘healthy’ amount. Going from a happy to a sad video, then an educational video, to a funny one, causes our minds to become overloaded with all this content. Due to these impulsive videos, our ability to value delayed gratification is hindered.

tiktok addiction
The demons of social media addiction

Professor of psychiatry and paediatrics Jessica Griffin claims that “Short videos, like candy, provide a rush of dopamine, a feel-good chemical that’s released in the pleasure centre in our brains,” and that this rush “often leaves you wanting more”, which is how many teens and young adults have started developing a TikTok addiction, as we find it much harder to take a step back from the app.

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TikTok’s terrifying algorithms

To make matters worse, TikTok has an algorithm that personalises videos towards you so that you stay on the app, promoting more rewarding videos, which actually shows up in brain scans as addiction-like responses.

Furthermore, there is evidence that suggests that watching TikTok for long periods of time can result in a reduction of interactions in real-life and can lead to emotional and social issues with regard to development, causing problems, Griffin claims with “attention, concentration, and short-term memory”.

Identifying why you want to delete/limit yourself from TikTok

  • Why you want to delete TikTok?
  • How is it making you feel?
  • What is TikTok stopping you from achieving?

Write these things down.

You’ve likely had these thoughts before but never went through with the action of deleting the app and justifying your thoughts with action. Writing them down is the first step that you can take to materialising this action into real life and can provide you with the motivation to limit yourself/delete TikTok.

So, it is important to recognise how these imbalances can affect your brain. Which is why deleting TikTok can create these healthier replacement habits are more natural and meaningful gratifications.

Replacing TikTok with practical and healthier habits

Replacing TikTok with any healthy/practical habit such as going to the gym perhaps or spending more time on work or particular projects. For me this time was replaced with reading, applying for jobs, improving my CV, and writing my novel, all of which I had been putting off for ages or simply not doing at all.

Stick to your guns

Although you feel tempted to redownload TikTok, don’t give into that temptation because you are going to be right back where you’ve started. Trust me it isn’t fun lying to yourself and giving in to what you dislike about wasting time so much. Hence why you have to break the TikTok cycle. I have experienced breaking this cycle more times than I can count on two hands and this time around I will not be falling victim to the strong grip that TikTok has on everyone.

Since deleting TikTok I have honestly noticed so many benefits and realised how much more time I have on my hands, that would’ve otherwise been wasted watching dog videos or someone’s irrelevant ‘story time’ that I will forget after 5 minutes.

Here are some of the benefits I have noticed since breaking the ‘TikTok cycle’

  • Mentally I am feeling a lot more aware, nowhere near as anxious and my mood is a lot better, not being on TikTok all the time. I feel much less guilty for not doing what I would like to be doing.
  • I feel a lot more connected to my feelings and emotions, which some people like to escape through TikTok and while that is good for the short term, it eventually catches up to you. Having more time to think of what you need from yourself, instead of not confronting these thoughts head on has been a big one for me.
  • It creates time you would not have had previously to explore things that you probably wouldn’t have done before. Namely your creative side.
  • I used to go on TikTok before bed for hours, but now I have replaced it with reading, which not only is more practical but being exposed to blue light before bed is bad for your sleep and can disrupt/affect your ability to fall asleep.
  • A huge prevention of procrastination from doing those important things you need to complete as well as the more recreational things that you want to pursue but never have ‘the time’

Hopefully, with all this information along with my experience of removing TikTok from my phone you can take the next steps to get overcome your TikTok addiction, or to merely create more time for yourself, so that you can get more work done or pursue something you’ve been putting off for a while.

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