The Student
Lifestyle
TikTok, reduced attention spans and lockdown entertainment.
by Sophie Smedegaard, 28/09/20

Emerging out of lockdown, many of us have acquired new hobbies or distractions that are concerningly difficult to shake. With more time on our hands during the pandemic and a need for feeling connected to people we couldn’t physically meet, many have pursued any opportunity for ‘closeness’ that could be found. This provided an ideal scene for the application, TikTok, as it feeds on a need for distraction and brings people together in a way other social media platforms do not; it connects strangers through interests in a never-ending stream of tailored content.

For many in our Western society, TikTok, previously named Musical.ly, was an app for younger kids that we really did not see the appeal of. But as lockdown progressed and when our appetite for lockdown entertainment was no longer fulfilled by other forms of social media, our generation gradually embraced it. A small group of teenagers capitalized on this and created viral dances, with the highest earning ‘TikToker’, Addison Rae, now making five million dollars a year. This new type of celebrity focuses on beauty, drama and dancing, but remains the same archetypical figure of aspiration for the masses observing them. 

TikTok’s prominence has exploded in a way that is groundbreaking, where actually having the app isn’t a determining factor in whether or not it impacts you. The songs in Spotify’s ‘Today’s Top Hits’ this summer, all had their origins in TikTok, displaying how momentously the music industry has been impacted by it. Songs gain popularity overnight in an unprecedented way, when a choreographed dance goes viral and is copied millions of times on personal accounts.

It isn’t just new music that experiences this instant success, but older songs have made comebacks, e.g. Tame Impala’s “The Less I Know The Better”, which went Platinum this summer after half a decade, thanks to a TikTok revival. 

Knowing certain songs, dances, and being able to understand a reference from a TikTok video, has become an issue of gaining social and cultural capital. TikTok has become another sphere of society to be maintained, otherwise you risk falling behind and losing grasp of what is going on. While many young adults still have an aggressively anti-TikTok attitude, it would be foolish to disregard its impact. 

TikTok hasn’t just affected us in the social sphere, but in a psychological one as well. As TikToks are a maximum of 60 seconds long and our feeds are constantly tailored and updated through algorithms tracking reactions to every TikTok, our already-reduced attention spans are becoming increasingly poor. We now have the luxury of watching videos that are guaranteed to interest us and as they are less than a minute long, growing bored is a rarity. This means that sitting down to watch a two-hour-long movie which isn’t tailored to us, is becoming increasingly difficult to do. The fast pace of TikTok juxtaposes the endless, noneventful days of lockdown, which might be extremely negative. It inhibits us from delving deep into any topic of interest, in a period when we would have had the time to do just that. Our already fast paced society, hardly needs another pastime which promotes a short attention span.   

TikTok has a tight grasp on most aspects of our generation’s’ social world, dominating cultural spheres in ways that older social media pages do not. The question thus remains, is TikTok here to stay and how will it continue to impact our lives?

Image Credit: Solen Feyissa via Wikimedia Commons