Photo of cellphone with TikTok logo on the screen
Photo: Solen Feyissa/Unsplash.
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Even if you delete TikTok from your phone, you won’t be able to escape the model of content that TikTok has ushered into the entertainment world. The short 15-second to three-minute videos are mind-numbingly addictive, and can now be found on other social media platforms through Instagram’s reels and Youtube’s shorts features.  

This type of content will glue you to your phone for hours on end, capitalizing off short attention spans. TikTok’s algorithm personalizes your feed so that the content you see is directly related to your own interests, as identified by the app. It doesn’t require you to seek out your own interests — the app’s advanced algorithms finds it for you.  

Nevertheless, the popularity of this content style isn’t surprising given its profitable model for both social media companies and entertainment services. By keeping content short and sweet, advertisement companies are able to promote more products with higher levels of engagement than they were previously.   

But what does this mean about the way we engage with the world around us? 

Initially, I thought the criticism of social media platforms like TikTok was just a moral panic — not unlike previous generations’ criticism of television for supposedly damaging human brains. However, TikTok content is unlike any other media because of how fast the content is produced, personalized, and viewed by users.  

What’s the point of watching a politician’s entire speech when TikTok offers a short clip that slices it into 10-second fragments over a funny sound? Likewise, instead of watching a 30-minute T.V. show, it’s more entertaining to watch 30 one-minute clips on Instagram reels, where we know each video will be aligned to our specific interests, due to the algorithm.  

As we deviate towards quick and easily consumable content, our experience of the world seems to become a bunch of fragments which are absent of any nuance. We search for entertainment that immediately entertains us, and we begin valuing the quantity of content over its quality. And with our constant engagement with the algorithm, we let ourselves consume only what we think is comfortable. We essentially lose the ability to engage with content which we might not particularly like; content which often widens our perspective of the world. 

When our minds are accustomed to engaging with short content, it becomes difficult to remain interested in long-form media like books, journals, or even movies. This long-form media often elaborates on subject matter and gives consumers the space to think more critically about what they are consuming. There is a peace of mind that comes with slowing down our media consumption. 

Although platforms like TikTok can be used for social good because of their ability to transmit messages quickly, we need to be careful about how much we use it and how it defines our worldly perspective. If we only see the world through short bites of content in algorithms that only confirm what we already know, we can lose our ability to critically think and see the world how it really is.  


  • Grace is a second-year political science student joining the Fulcrum for the 2022-23 publishing year. She has experience in public service, and has volunteered in advocacy campaigns and grassroots initiatives uplifting youth and women. She is passionate about the arts, community organizing, and politics. When she’s not studying or working, you can find her reading or rewatching Seinfeld episodes.