Why Is TikTok So Addictive?

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Carolyn Howell

Last Updated: Nov 08, 2023

TikTok 101

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With over 1.7 billion active users in 2023, it’s reasonable to ask, “Why is TikTok so addictive?” What is its edge over other, more established social media platforms? Does it deliver the best social media experience? Let’s find out the answers to these burning questions.

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What Do the Statistics Say?

Statista’s September 2023 report reveals that Facebook still lords it over other social platforms in terms of monthly active users. The social network giant’s numbers are at almost 3 billion. YouTube is right at its heels, with over 2.5 billion monthly active users (MAUs). Facebook’s Meta siblings, WhatsApp and Instagram, are 3rd and 4th, respectively, breaching the 2-billion mark. WeChat is number 5, with 1.3 billion MAUs, and TikTok makes it to number 6, with a little over one billion MAUs.

TikTok is lagging behind Facebook by 2 billion MAUs. But keep in mind that the app breached the one billion mark faster than any other network. The app only became available internationally in 2017. And it’s reasonable to conclude that Meta’s top-performing platforms owe their staggering numbers to their considerably longer existence.

TikTok expects to reach 2 billion MAUs by 2024’s end. When it does, the app will once again make an extraordinary and tremendous leap forward within a short period.

More and more young people are downloading the app and trying this new kid on the social media block. And once users get a taste of what it has to offer, they never want to leave. So, why is TikTok so addicting?

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What Makes TikTok So Addictive?

Why is TikTok addictive? There have been a number of scientific studies that looked at social media addiction in children. And the phenomenon has become even more evident with social networking site (SNS) users’ obsession with TikTok.

According to one study published in the Frontiers of Psychology, social media addiction and depression is “the consistency of addiction-like symptoms or a lack of self-discipline regarding social media.” Another study on Science Direct states that “SNSs use may be addictive because some individuals experience symptoms similar to those experienced by those who suffer from other forms of addiction.”

Users who get “addicted” to TikTok do exhibit addiction-like symptoms. So, what makes TikTok addictive? Here are the major contributing factors that led to TikTok addiction:

  • TikTok’s highly effective recommendation algorithm. The algorithm has an uncanny knack for recommending a constantly updated and personalized stream of videos that match user interests. Its matchmaking capability is, bar none, the most precise among other recommendation algorithms out there. TikTok is able to satisfy users’ content consumption needs, so they keep coming back for more. 
  • The FOMO phenomenon. The fear of missing out, or FOMO, is responsible for fanatical SNS use — not just TikTok addiction. Combined with TikTok’s gratifying For You feed, FOMO becomes even harder to ignore. 
  • TikTok’s binge-worthy, bite-sized, fast entertainment. Most videos on TikTok are only a few minutes long. And every bite-sized piece of entertaining content gives users a good dose of happy hormones. Each “nibble” is satisfying and not enough, leading to “an entertainment spiral,” as the same Frontiers in Psychology study mentioned above also reveals. 
  • The vanity factor. TikTok offers creators the best odds of going viral and having their time in the limelight. The attention they get gives them a high, so they keep posting videos to get the same high.

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TikTok Addiction: The Good and the Bad

All the reasons that make TikTok so great are the same ones that make it addicting.

The For You feed delivers an endless flow of content with a strong and positive emotional impact. The fast-paced content turnover gives users the same sense of always needing to stay updated so they won’t miss out on anything amazing. Users know they will get instant gratification when they open the app. The enthusiastic community makes creators feel more seen and appreciated compared to other platforms.

TikTok offers creators and brands better opportunities than other social media platforms to reach and engage their target demographics. Identify the hours of each day when your audiences are active on TikTok. Follow a content posting schedule that works to your advantage. Create content tailored to their interests to land on their For You feeds and guarantee views and engagement.

If you’re a struggling TikTok user, how do you avoid getting addicted? Here are some tips:

  1. Allot only certain times during the day for TikTok, depending on your daily routine. Thirty minutes per session are often long enough to get your dose of entertainment or inspiration. 
  2. Unfollow creators and brands that do not add real value to your life. You may have discovered and started following some because of a few great videos. But if their overall output does not align with your interests, they’re not worth your time. 
  3. Avoid using TikTok when in the company of family and friends. Set a weekly meet-up with a loved one or close friend. Breathe new life into your real-world social life. 
  4. Rediscover hobbies and habits that have always brought you joy. Check out your TBR pile. Take long walks. Start playing your favorite sport again.

If you find yourself losing track of time while watching TikToks or neglecting more important tasks, it’s time to re-evaluate and control your social media habits.

 A woman sits at a bookstore table while watching videos on her phone.

Why Is TikTok so Addictive? How Can You Use This to Your Advantage?

TikTok’s highly accurate recommendation algorithm benefits users, creators, and brands equally. Users can enjoy a personalized playlist that caters to their interests. Creators and brands with a content strategy that aligns with their target audience’s interests can rest assured that their videos will reach the right viewers. Overall, TikTok’s recommendation algorithm feature has consistently proven to be an excellent matchmaker!

Compared to other social platforms, TikTok prioritizes user interests over a video or profile’s popularity when recommending content. By satisfying users’ content consumption needs, TikTok makes sure they keep coming back for more. With other platforms increasingly favoring sponsored content over organic content, more and more users prefer TikTok.

This major difference between TikTok and other platforms means you need to focus on a different content strategy on the wildly popular app. The good news is that an effective content strategy on TikTok is straightforward. Always have your finger on your niche and industry’s pulse. Create content that beats in perfect rhythm with this pulse, and you’ll always have interested viewers.

Knowing the answer to “Why is TikTok so addictive?” will help you understand how to make the algorithm work in your favor. And you can further enhance your audience-targeting capability when you sign up for a High Social plan. Give yourself an added AI-powered advantage with High Social’s advanced, proprietary AI technology. Have your content show up on the For You feeds of more genuinely interested viewers. Start growing your TikTok today!

TikTok 101