Sharper image: Tik Tok goes viral as the latest distraction to teenage life

At least one person’s phone is lit up in the dim lights of the class. Then a few more. Any free time that is given to students, they are found with their heads down, and phone close at hand. The app that they are using is Tik Tok. 

With over 14.3 million unique views in six months alone, Tik Tok has taken over the social media market, according to Tik Tok is a popular new social media app that has sky-rocketed in the past six months. Users can gain followers and stream the popularized videos in an Instagram Esque fashion. The videos on Tik Tok can range anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute, making them fast and easy to watch and share with others.

Sophomore Brenden Keller said he uses the app very often and has over 6,500 followers on the app. He said that people have been obsessed with the app due to its versatility in how creators can make content and relate with their peers and other students across the country. 

“I like how free I am to express myself and the fact that I can keep people who follow me up to date on my life and what’s going on with me,” Keller said.

Keller explained that he uses the app mainly to keep his friends updated. He said that he likes the attention that people will pay and that having an audience to cater this content is a large factor that causes users much like himself to utilize the app. 

“I think the app is so appealing because just the idea of having an audience who wants to see you and know about you is so intriguing to people these days,” Keller said.

Junior Jack Conway said that he believes that the app is so popular because it populates all of the posts that a user likes and uses them to suggest other posts just like it. He said that this causes the never ending scrolling process that gets Tik Tok users obsessed. 

“Each time you like something Tik Tok will then make sure you see more of those tik toks or similar ones so that it is always funny or interesting to your opinion,” Conway said. 

School psychologist Andrea Phillips said that scientifically, there is research that social media in general releases endorphins that are very similar to that of drugs and other addictive substances. According to the, social media addiction has the same symptoms of other substance abuse such as mood modification and withdrawal symptoms. 

Poll based on a cross-section of 500 students

“If the social media platform starts to interfere with one’s day-to-day functioning, such as participating in school activities, doing homework, spending time with friends/family, then it is likely an ‘addiction,’” Phillips said. 

Conway said that he knows when to stop and focus on his chores and other activities. He said that although he knows the fine line between the addictive properties of Tik Tok, but he said he can tread this line and not get addicted to the social media platform.

“For me, I just know when to stop watching Tik Toks and then get on to what I really need to do, like homework or getting ready for practice,” Conway said. “Sometimes I catch myself on the app for around 20 minutes. Usually I only go on the app for about five just to get a laugh or to show my friends something funny that I found on the app,” Conway added.


“I think the app is so appealing because just the idea of having an audience who wants to see you and know about you is so intriguing to people these days.”

— sophomore Brenden Keller

Freshman Ma’Leah Taylor said that she spends around four or five hours a day on Tik Tok. She said that the ability to scroll for hours on the app, because of its infinite scrolling mechanism, has had a negative impact on her grades. In a poll based on the cross section of 500 East students, 42.5 percent of students said they were distracted by Tik Tok in class and while doing homework. Taylor explained that she spends too much time on the app, but it did not have an impact on her homework, but rather, her mental health.

“I tried deleting every other app on my phone, and then I started having mental breakdowns because I couldn’t go on Tik Tok. I’m at a point of addiction. The infinite scroll on Tik Tok makes it hard to stop,” Taylor said. 

Phillips said that she is concerned for this generation. She said that social media has decreased the stamina for long-term rewards. Phillips explained that because of social media, teens have grown used to instantaneous rewards through the likes and followers they recieve. She said that a loss of these rewards can lead to catastrophic effects on the self esteem and mental health. 

“It is concerning as a parent, as an educator, and as a clinician that these platforms mean everything for some teens,” Phillips said. 

Sophomore Sanjana Kota explained that she went viral on Tik Tok four times. She said that with these followers and nice comments, came hate. She said that she was unphased because she did not know the people who made the comments, and therefore, she was able to block out their hate. 

“You have to think about it. The people on Tik Tok only know how you look and the thing you posted, they don’t know who you are as a person,” Kota said. 

Kota also explained that she doesn’t base her self esteem off of how many followers she has, or even the hate comments she receives. She said she knows what kind of person she is, and no matter how many followers and likes she may receive, she knows the type of person that she is. 

“You want likes and followers, but in the end it doesn’t really mean anything. No matter what, I don’t really know those people, so it doesn’t really mean anything to me,” Kota said. 

Keller said he has experienced a lot of hate as a result of the content of some of his Tik Toks. He said that he experienced homophobia and that that type of hate can be damaging to younger, more impressionable teens. 

“I think there are many dangers, toxicity, predators, hate speech, among other things. I personally have experienced homophobia,” Keller said. “the videos comments also had many people agreeing with the guy that what i was wearing was weird and disgusting.” 

Phillips said that these hate comments by peers and other media users have become more integral to a student’s self image and self esteem. She said that peers have been more valuable to teens as social media has grown, and that students value their peer’s opinions more than anything else. 

“Social Media today has significantly influenced  how teens value, define, and feel about themselves, and not always in a good way, for it can be extremely pernicious,” Phillips said.  “Unfortunately, social media has ‘raised the bar’ if you will, in becoming the barometer for how students judge and develop their self-esteem.” 

Senior Abhishek Malhotra said that he believes that the app has skyrocketed because teens can get famous by it. However, he also said that the fame can get to a teen’s head, and that can adversely create an addiction.

“I think addiction is a serious problem. Once people get a taste of the fame they want it more and more, and that can be deadly,” Malhotra said. 

Malhotra said that the app has gained popularity because of its unique qualities of the content. He said that a simple audio clip can be transformed into a whole new piece of content with new meaning and added humor. 

“Tik tok is different because people can have many takes on a simple audio. There’s so many uses of one audio and everyone has their own perspective. I like that I’m able to create custom content that’s unique and funny,” Malhotra said. 

Freshman Cailyn Smiley said that she uses the app a fun way to add songs to her playlist. She said that Tik Tok always introduces her to new people, songs, and content. She said that the app is unique because of all the ways it can introduce new things to her life. 

“It’s always something and somebody new, especially on the ‘for you’ page,” Smiley said.

Smiley said that she feels a sense of validation from the likes that she gets on Tik Tok. She said that this is a dangerous trap for young and impressionable users. She said that often times, she feels relief and happiness when she gains a follower, and tries not to pay attention to the time where she lost followers.

“If they like my Tik Toks, it means that they really liked my content. It makes me feel more validated. When I gain followers, it feels good,” Smiley said.

School psychologist Dave Milos said that with the followers and likes on Tik Tok, it is almost impossible for students to feel good about themselves because they constantly compare themselves to the false realities of social media. 

“It’s hard to see that [you’re enough] on Tik Tok because you only have so many followers and things like that. Self esteem and self image are things that can only happen in the real world. With genuine feedback and face-to-face interactions,” Milos said. “That level of artificial feedback can either inflate, or more often than not, deflate your image.”

Keller said that he finds Tik Tok to be an incredibly entertaining app. He said that the community on the app is either very supportive, or not as supportive. However, He said that his mixed feelings about the app are reflected in his emotions about the app. 

“Tik Tok gives me a varying range of emotions honestly. sometimes I enjoy being a part of the community and other times it’s a hassle,” Keller said. 

Kota said she feels that Tik Tok can teach teens to have thicker skin. She said that although there may be hate that causes lowering self esteem, in the long run, the app will help teens reassure themselves of their worth. 

“I think it helps you become a better person and realize that what other people say about you doesn’t really impact you, as long as you truly know that you are a good person,” Kota said.

Namratha Prasad is a Features Editor for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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