‘TikTok Brain’ and New Mental Illness Crisis Destroying a Generation

Isaiah McCall

StrangenessPhoto byDeath Grips

Every generation thinks they are experiencing a doomsday event.

Television was called a boob tube, video games were blamed for kids’ lack of ambition; the internet itself is probably some Mayan calendar apocalypse yet to come.

That said something feels very uniquely rotten with TikTok.

Seeing the endless stream of exhibitionism and ephemeral twenty-second video clips on my little glowing box makes me feel like I’m a background character in Blade Runner.

It’s the second least stimulating place on the internet, only behind Reddit.

And — now, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report “TikTok Brain” (or the act of scrolling through TikTok for hours on end) is causing some users to experience physical symptoms like headaches and negatively affecting their attention spans.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took a look back at emergency room visits for mental health issues over the course of the pandemic. And what they found was that the proportion of girls showing up in emergency rooms for tic-like behaviors had tripled over the course of the pandemic. And when they drilled down to what was going on, they discovered that a lot of the girls were watching the same kind of TikTok videos,” said Julie Jargon, a Family & Tech columnist at The Wall Street Journal.

TikTok is turning Gen Z and Gen Alpha into mindless zombies.

It’s affecting adults too, creating a whole new mental illness of its own.

Survival of the Fittest

The estimated number of children ever diagnosed with ADHD, according to a national survey of parents, is 6 million (9.8%) using data from 2016–2019; and according to the CDC, this number includes:

  • 3–5 years: 265,000 (2%)
  • 6–11 years 2.4 million (10%)
  • 12–17 years: 3.3 million (13%… one in ten can you believe that?)

Those numbers are peanuts however and nearly doubled during the pandemic with 22% of adults and 17% of children starting ADHD medication for the first time.

It’s like a new virus, only this one is digital and there’s no vaccine for it.

During this same period TikTok grew 180 percent among 15–25 year old users becoming the fastest-growing app in history to reach 1 billion users. It’s why some say it’s the “new YouTube.”

TikTok is the fastest growing platform of all-time.Photo byThe Information
Indeed. Activities that require sustained attention, like reading and doing math problems, use the part of the brain responsible for decision-making. That part of the brain is most vulnerable in children whose brains don’t finish developing until they’re 25.
“This has been happening since parents were concerned about children watching TV shows. So, it’s not necessarily a new concern. But what’s different about TikTok is that the videos tend to be very short, much shorter than even YouTube,” said Jargon.
Jargon also notes: “once the algorithm learns your preferences, it shows you more tailored videos that it knows you will like. Brain scans [have shown] that the areas of the brain involved in addiction were highly activated among the people who watched these personalized videos on TikTok.”

Attention is a skill like anything else.

If it isn’t trained , it degrades and it will be harder to read, focus in school or work, and ultimately reach one’s goals.

“TikTok is a dopamine machine. If you want kids to pay attention, they need to practice paying attention.”
Dr. John Hutton, pediatrician and director of the Reading & Literacy Discovery Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Sadly society will never adapt to the individual and whoever can compete will compete; this will mean that future kids and young adults will need to be on X and Y pill to do things they would otherwise not be doing.

We do not know the causes of ADHD: there’s no definitive proof its purely genetic. That means ADHD, in part, is either environmental or it is that society is placing conditions on humans that are not normal.

Pluck it Out

I feel like Kanye West, so a Nazi, criticizing the new generation’s entertainment but there’s a case that TikTok could become the most destructive social media platform ever…

As Bob Dylan said, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

I’ve had TikTok on my phone for a month to research this article.

It’s not all bad.

True Crime, investing and photography videos are some of the more interesting things I’ve seen. The only thing is, like cigarettes and alcohol, the only way to enjoy it is in moderation.

There are clear benefits of reducing social media usage:

1. Cognitive improvement

2. Increased attention span

3. Inc sleep quality

4. Better relationships

5. Dec anxiety, depression

TikTok’s Future

When Biden and Trump agree on something, you know it’s bad. And they both agree that TikTok is not only a national security risk but also a danger to the mental health of children.

The app may get shutdown on security risks alone:

  • TikTok shares your data more than any other social media app.
  • TikTok and parent company ByteDance may also specifically target members of the U.S. government, activists, public figures and journalists, according to an internal audit; they may also monitor the personal location of some specific American citizens, according to a recent story by Forbes.
  • The interface is explicitly designed to hijack and shorten attention spans and dopamine receptors.

Biden won’t touch TikTok until after the 2024 election. It’s a political hot potato, and no one wants to be responsible for the fall of millions of tweens’ happiness.

But with the way TikTok is blatantly targeting children’s mental health, it may have to be done.

Pandora’s Box. Once it has been opened, there is no coming back.

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USA Today Reporter and Ultramarathoner. I write about Cryptocurrency, Fitness Hacks, and Greek Philosophy. Also a diehard Trekkie | mccallisaiah@gmail.com

Jersey City, NJ

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