It goes without saying that social media has become an overwhelming force in all of our lives. It can be positive when thinking about how it bring each of us together. However, there are many studies that suggest that social media can have detrimental effects on your mental health and self perception.
TikTok has quickly become one of the most popular social media platforms globally. I, myself, was an avid user of the app, loving the short, sometimes funny or helpful videos about an infinite amount of topics. That was the problem with that app for me; with an infinite amount of content, there was an endless stream of entertainment--and no reason for me to put my phone down and go do something productive. I remember it got really bad when my screen time was starting to be over 4 hours a day. I even put a time limit on the app for 45 minutes but every day, without a doubt, I would press the "ignore time limit for today" option and proceed my downward spiral of internet trends and memes. I think it's important to note that this was during my first semester of college, when I had real responsibilities to follow through and no excuse of quarantine to waste time.
It wasn't until about a year later during finals week of first semester of the 2021-22 school year that I deleted TikTok to help myself focus. What I didn't realize was that I was also helping more than just my focus discipline. After I deleted the app I found myself feeling less anxious and more relaxed about life and the way I perceived myself. It was so easy to compare myself to the people in the videos I was watching every day.
Part of my anxiety I believe stemmed from a forced need of instant gratification that developed overtime through heavy use of social media. If you think about it, with a constant stream of short videos that are intended to elicit some form of comical relief or sense of gratification, it only makes sense that our attention spans slowly dwindles. I remember I would get to the point that if a video didn't strike my interest within the first two seconds, I would skip to the next--sometimes just skipping videos, wasting my time endlessly scrolling without learning anything. I would even get to the point where I couldn't sit through a YouTube video because those were too long to hold my attention. That short attention span and need for instant gratification translates to other areas in my life. Have you ever texted someone and began to get anxious when they don't answer within minutes or seconds? This is something that I personally relate to. When it comes down to it, when you get rid of the stimulus that keeps you distracted, you get rid of the pressure to expect instant attention and response.
As a reflect on my time without TikTok, I feel relieved that I finally made the decision to get rid of it. It's an embarrassing thing to admit that my relationship with TikTok was kind of an addiction. Without TikTok, I have found new passions in reading books to take up my time. I also read news articles so I am still aware of what is going on in the world. While sometimes I don't know references to TikTok trends and memes that my friends are talking about, I am relieved to know that I am a more patient, relaxed, and informed individual than I was before.
I hope you find this anecdote insightful as you reflect on your phone usage.
Written By: Meredith Ho
Meredith is the Communications Associate in The Women’s Network at IU. She is a sophomore from Carmel, Indiana, studying Public Policy Analysis on the Pre-Law track. Besides TWN, she is also involved in IU’s fashion magazine, SEASON, as a staff photographer. She also works as the Visual Arts Liaison for HHArt.