It’s really easy to say that an app is addictive, because most of them are. There’s always an app more addictive than its predecessor’s, TikTok that rose out of the ashes of Music.ly has been a staple in driving new content out towards its viewers, having gone over 2 billion worldwide mobile downloads.
Like anything, there is bound to be a disconnect between entertainment and addiction. First there was radio and television, video games are on a never ending technological rise with newer and faster updates hitting the markets every other year. Even social media itself, I used to spend hours on Facebook scrolling through my friends and family’s personal vents or repost of meme’s most of us would now never touch with a ten-foot pole. Yet I can’t remember the last time I even opened the app unless it is to sign into something else. On that note let’s break down why TikTok is so addictive.
The more time I spend on TikTok the more I realise as tailored as it may be to the user experience, I never know what’s coming next, ever. I open the app and I find myself at home, on BritishTok laughing away. I scroll and suddenly I’m in china in a forest watching an elderly man sear steaks off the side of a rock. Then I scroll again and I’m watching an acapella group that lives together and suddenly breaks into song at apparently any given hour of the day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I love finding myself in the most odd places on TikTok, watching videos I would have never gone out of my way to watch, and that’s how they get you.
The fact that you never know what’s coming next is why the For You page is something apps like Instagram and Snapchat are heavily trying to replicate with reels and showcases. It keeps engagement high and allows you to discover new content effortlessly. You can swipe up into a video with 1 million+ views and then swipe up again into a video with less than 50. Unpredictability makes Tiktok popular, it’s one of the few apps who’s algorithm actually keeps you guessing every step of the way. To describe it in its purest form it’s “recommendation first” which almost takes the power out of your hand, and you watch what you’re given – of course you can just stick to the people you follow or use the search function, but that’s not as easy.
2) Ease of use
There’s two parts to this but lets start with main one – it’s a one stop shop for your thumb. It’s doing all the work, you could essentially sign up without following a single person and just swipe with your thumb and like posts with your thumb, even hit the follow button all with just your thumb. For my first month or two on TikTok that’s literally all I did, before I realised what I was doing I had followed over 300 accounts and liked more than 1000 videos.
That’s where the second part of ease of us comes in, up until recently the longest video you could find on TikTok was a minute long. Now you can watch videos of up to three minutes long but I’ve found that the only people who really use it are those with a committed fanbase. A huge majority of content creators on TikTok are well aware that the most popular videos on TikTok average a video length of around 15 seconds, speeding up the race to create higher quality content in a shorter time frame.
The one stop thumb shop, partnered with Vine’s original iconic concept of short videos is a recipe for addiction. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve lost to mindlessly scrolling on TikTok which none of the other apps I’m on can compare to.
3) Community Driven
I personally like to break this down into three separate categories – comments, tags and lives. These categories are used by pretty much every single social media platform, TikTok attempts to take them all a step further into become a more intuitive community driven platform.
Comments – The way the comment system is laid out is pretty generic and straight forward but it’s the little things that make it stand out. Platforms like Instagram are spreading themselves thin trying to have all types of content on their website, from posts to reels to IGTV, the comments are therefore separated as such, comments for each type of content. TikTok being a video-based app focuses on making the comments as visible as possible by being able to see comments whilst watching the videos. I could scroll through 200 comments as the videos play, leave the comments section and go back and I can pick up where I left off. Places like Instagram and Facebook have tried to implement the same systems but due to their multi-content style it falls short, sometimes having to leave the post to see the comments separately and other times being able to view the comments whilst on a video but having to start from the top comment if you leave the section and come back.
Another quick note is video replies, which you can do directly by replying to a comment from a previous video with a new video that will display in the comment section and publicly on your profile.
Tags – Best used by platforms like twitter, TikTok adopts a similar style. You can mix your videos into specific tags through the caption, meaning I can search #food and find all related content within seconds. They take it one step further by allowing you to filter out content by date posted, popularity and a multitude of other options. The tags system also follows twitter by having a list of the trending tags under the search bar, so unlike Instagram you’re always aware of what is popular. This works for creators so they know what to post to stay in the loop of the app and for the audience to find the same content being pumped out by the creators.
Lives – Instagram goes head-to-head with TikTok on lives, other apps such as Facebook and Twitter are slowly making their own versions of this but TikTok takes the cake. In your notifications section you can find the people you follow who are live straight away, but between videos on your For You page you may see an ad or two, and every now and then you’ll find a section where you can scroll through all active lives. I find on TikTok a lot of lives opt for having their fans and viewers being able to join the live and communicate directly with the creator, as does Instagram but the lack of being able to see all available live makes their system a lot more personal instead of community driven.
TikTok also has the advantage of the audience being able to buy things like ‘roses’ with real money to send to their favourite lives and content creators being able to transfer that into real money, it’s a drive for creators to keep jumping on live and interactive with their base.
TikTok is definitely a contender for the best social media platform out there, it checks almost all of the boxes in creating an environment tailored to the experience of its users, and for many including myself a growing addiction. I’ve found myself constantly hours deep and not wanting to stop. Apps like these are full of entertainment that you can get lost in, over and over but you also have to remember that it’s not reality and you can and will be consumed by the amount of content that is being designed specifically for you.
A 23 year old writer, from fictional short stories to poetry and song writing. I enjoy making articles about modern culture, the way it affects our brains and creative lifestyles – how we can learn from it, what I’ve learned from it so far.