The Rise and Consequence of TikTok

How TikTok came to be the most popular social media, and the potential consequences for society


TikTok symbol

On August 5, 1993, VeggieTales, a children’s show about vegetables and their adventures in life, predicted randomly generated humor far before it became a reality. In the 21st century, humor of this variety is common on the Internet. Random bits of information are morphed together in videos on sites like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter and are meant to be funny. Humor has long been found in absurdity, which is why comedy is often crafted with hyperbole and exaggeration.

TikTok was released in August of 2018, and now is a platform almost completely woven into the fabric of society.. TikTok grabs the attention of its users by appealing to their personality and interests, which the algorithm discovers through interaction. When someone ”likes,” saves, or watches multiple times the algorithm takes into account and merges with several other videos in the person’s history. The ”for you page” and recommendations are constantly changing, honed by a user’s time spent on the application. As the algorithm crafts an accurate and enjoyable platform for someone, they typically become more interested and entertained, creating a cycle.

A user spends an average of “93 minutes a day” on TikTok, according to SensorTower. With 24 hours in a day, and an average of “7 hours sleep” that teenagers receive per night on top of 7-10 hours of school and homework, time spent on applications like TikTok may seem like a waste of time ( However, it is much more nuanced than just being a waste of precious, valuable time. As of February 27th, 2023, CBS News reported that mental health was searched more than “67 billion times” on the application, a number possibly alerting a crisis among the youth. 

Cigna International Health found in a 2023 survey that “91 percent of 18-24 year olds” claim to be stressed in the workplace, an alarming number compared to the 84 percent average. The creation of the Internet, the smartphone, social media, and the combination of all of these into one has come to fruition in the lives of Generation Z. Almost every person born between 1995 and 2010 has a brain which developed to be used to such technological advancements. 

There is little data as to the effect growing up in such an environment may have. Social media is becoming more controlled, but the psychological impacts it may have on users over a lifetime are very real. In an opinion piece published by the Wall Street Journal in 2022, a statement is proclaimed which is harsh but eye-opening: “The human attention span has decreased because we now have more and better choices for entertainment, so we are less willing to spend time consuming a poor product.” TikTok has taken over the attention of teenagers because it is catered to exactly what someone would enjoy watching, and it does so in a way that is addicting. There are unlimited videos at one’s fingertips, and once they get bored of one video all they have to do is swipe upward. There are billions, if not trillions of videos on TikTok, at least enough content for a human lifespan. 

However, there are potential positives to the application which do not deserve to be overlooked. Videos will most likely support specific creative endeavors someone pursues. For instance, if a new guitar-maker develops a feed based on guitar-making, they may learn very quickly about hundreds of different perspectives on the craft. Since each video is so short and there seems to be an unlimited amount of them, it is easy to find lots of different ideas about the same topic. 

Another benefit may be that people make friends on the application through interaction in comment sections and on videos. It also serves as a medium for real-life friends to share their interests and things they find humorous or interesting. 

TikTok is a revolutionary application and may have ramifications in the fabric of society which will remain unseen and unknowable for quite some time. However, it is clear to see that it has changed the way teenagers and members of society interact and share information. Since so much information is so readily available, it is consumed with less meaning and with less interest than in the past. Rather, information is often a form of entertainment in small bit-sized videos which allow for a good smile or laugh. A shift in the way the world interacts has happened yet again, and humanity will shift with it, willing to enjoy and consume whatever it finds to be the most stimulating and rewarding.