TikTok is one of the latest and most popular social media evolution. The other platforms don’t come close. The TikTok stream is a perfect match of user interests, no “friends” that are not close to the stream. It’s all delivered in a video funnel (great for ads) and A/B tests are integrated in the platform. Highly optimized dopamine-triggering doom scrolling perfectly tailored to the viewer. All social media apps have the same goal: soak up as much of your attention as possible to get you to look at ads. TikTok is simply so much more successful at soaking up peoples attention than competing platforms.

TikTok is affecting peoples quality of life en-masse in a way that social media has never achieved before. Any social media marketeer will tell you how insane the numbers are on TikTok compared to competitors.

Video only content is lowest effort to consume. All content is super short form and shallow, anything longer than 20s is considered long, so it’s easy to keep that dopamine cycle going. Autoplay and endless scrolling. YouTube Shorts and Instagram/Facebook Reels have that as well, but their algorithms are less tuned to the consumer.

Forced breaks from the intermittent reinforcement loop of online casinos has been used with some success in reducing addictive behavior. This seems analogous to having breaks in auto play. But the app won’t let you, subtly pushing you forward. Other proposals to deal with these kinds of social media apps are listed here https://attentionsettings.com/

India has banned the platform, stating: “…prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order” “to protect the data and privacy of its 1.3 billion citizens” and to stop the app from “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in unauthorized servers outside India” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_of_TikTok#2020_ban

Some people are worried about the Chinese Communist Party exerting control to blackmail sensitive leaders, celebreties and their families or to persuade populations at scale [2] through targeted video shorts. The app has been shown to capture all keyboard input [3], clipboard contents [4], and record much more than it needs to function. All US-based social media is blocked in China, and there’s an argument for reciprocity. The topic of Facebook being used to gather international intelligence for the US is not typically mentioned in the same conversations.

[1] opinion; https://www.wsj.com/articles/on-tiktok-its-all-fun-and-games…

[2] https://www.economist.com/interactive/briefing/2022/07/09/th…

[3] https://www.notebookcheck.net/TikTok-is-monitoring-all-keybo…

[4] https://threatpost.com/tiktok-to-stop-clipboard-snooping-aft…


It’s a content graph rather than a social graph, so when using it to much people eventually get bored of whatever uninteresting thing their real life friends or friends, family or colleagues with different interests are up to. The recommendations algorithm is finely tuned to deliver the most addictive content, what could be more interesting?

addiction regulation

So TikTok like other social media companies exploit human biology to increase “engagement” and commercialize user data. They aren’t unique in this; Casinos have been doing this for decades and Zynga canonicalized this in addictive easy and short games.

TikTok is difficult to disengage from, for some it’s easier than for others. It would be interesting to see statistics to gauge users’ various level of addictive/compulsive behaviour in the app, that data is not publicly available.

Should there be a limit on how addictive we allow something to become? We limit nicotine content in cigarettes; we ban or highly regulate many drugs like heroin and cocaine. “Under the hood” the drugs we ban are affecting neural pathways; why should it matter if you’re ingesting a substance vs having similar effects via psychological manipulation through what Neal Stephenson called “Snow” in the visionary cyberpunk novel Snow Crash from 1992?

the shadow of the algorithm

TikTok doesn’t need a lot of your scrolling and dwell time data for the video you are fed. Then the algorithm tries more targeted video’s and gauge how you resonate and compare it with others from the same country or city similar to Cambridge Analytica could profile a person very accurately through social media activity, but much much faster, I estimate a few days of casual use tops and it can gauge your age, your relationship status, your line of work, your interests, your values and views on life - and what you like. It’s graph and model driven. Sensitive and vulnerable people can be targeted and nudged and masse to support certain lines of thinking. People like to view themselves as independent and intelligent consumers, but if you do not want to be subtly pushed there is little you can do against a refined and calculated art of advertising psychology and social media marketing other then not use these platforms. The algorithm knows your hooks better then you yourself.

As Douglas Rushkoff said it in 2011 with free commercial social media you are the product, not the consumer. => https://www.wired.co.uk/article/doug-rushkoff-hello-etsy