Thursday, February 22, 2024

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Thursday, February 22, 2024

5 min read

5 min read

5 min read

How TikTok is Affecting Our Brains: Explained Simply

How TikTok is Affecting Our Brains: Explained Simply

How TikTok is Affecting Our Brains: Explained Simply

"TikTok, an app to be avoided," that's what you're told, and yet you can't help but go there. But is it a good thing? Well, contrary to what you're told, it's certainly not all bad!

Every time a new technology appears in our society, there's a part of the population that jumps on it, and another that rejects it completely. If we go back in time, this was already the case with the arrival of the Internet, until today with the rise of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and, in particular, generative AI. But what are we to make of all this?

Seeing the Glass as Half Full

For everything, there are those who see the glass as half full and those who see it as half empty. But with social media, the search is for something else: balance. Because no, TikTok, Instagram, etc. are not the worst tools ever created. It's the way we use them that makes them harmful.

By using them intelligently and kindly, social media reveal themselves to be incredible tools. They open doors to knowledge, enabling us to forge links with people from all over the world, explore our passions, and even understand ourselves better. The problem lies in their excessive use.

Why Do We Like to Scroll?

In 2006, our "worst enemy" was invented: infinite scroll. No more "Next" and "Previous" buttons. From now on, content will scroll before our eyes, with almost no action on our part. For many of us, this change has become the reason of our screen addiction.

But why are we so addicted to scrolling? Well, scrolling has kind of an anaesthetic effect. When we scroll, we are not thinking about anything else, we are "releasing the stress of our day." Content after content, we let ourselves go, we almost end up self-hypnotizing. What we love is this attentive silence - "I do nothing, I think of nothing."

Chemically speaking, what happens in our brains with each scroll is like playing slot machines in a casino. Each scroll, each new content, is a mystery. We don't know what we'll come across: will it be better or worse? It's all down to chance - or rather, recommendation algorithms. And, as you may have guessed, not knowing what to expect is a little exciting. And for good reason, our brains are self-bombarded with shots of dopamine - the pleasure hormone. Every scroll, a shot. And when our brain like the content (because it's funny, intriguing or sensational), it's a double dose. And when it's not so enticing, let's try again!

And like slot machines, it's addictive, but not without consequences!

How Does Scrolling Affect Our Brains?

If lots of people believe that spending time on social media helps them relax and "clear their minds," they're mistaken. Actually, despite what many think, our brains aren't empty during this time: it's powering along at 200 miles an hour!

When you scroll on TikTok, your brain is actually interested in every piece of content it sees. Whether you're interested or not, it doesn't yet know the difference. With each piece of content, it works: it tries as best it can to find the context, the missing elements to fully understand and seek the link between before and after. Then you zap away, and the process starts all over again. Each new image means a new processing calculation. So imagine flooding your brain with around 90-135 TikToks per hour, all the information it has to process... It's enough to border on mental overload!

The same applies to dopamine production. Dopamine is a hormone that our bodies need. It's the hormone that gives us the motivation to carry out our daily tasks. What happens is that we all have a "basic" dose of dopamine in us. And with each rewarding action, this level rises slightly, giving us that feeling of happiness and satisfaction. Once this peak has passed, our dopamine level drops back down, often to slightly below our baseline average. The trouble with taking too many shots of dopamine is that it raises our average level. As a result, anything below that is bland and of less interest to us — We invite you to listen the amazing Andrew Huberman on the subject.

"TikTok, an app to be avoided," that's what you're told, and yet you can't help but go there. But is it a good thing? Well, contrary to what you're told, it's certainly not all bad!

Every time a new technology appears in our society, there's a part of the population that jumps on it, and another that rejects it completely. If we go back in time, this was already the case with the arrival of the Internet, until today with the rise of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and, in particular, generative AI. But what are we to make of all this?

Seeing the Glass as Half Full

For everything, there are those who see the glass as half full and those who see it as half empty. But with social media, the search is for something else: balance. Because no, TikTok, Instagram, etc. are not the worst tools ever created. It's the way we use them that makes them harmful.

By using them intelligently and kindly, social media reveal themselves to be incredible tools. They open doors to knowledge, enabling us to forge links with people from all over the world, explore our passions, and even understand ourselves better. The problem lies in their excessive use.

Why Do We Like to Scroll?

In 2006, our "worst enemy" was invented: infinite scroll. No more "Next" and "Previous" buttons. From now on, content will scroll before our eyes, with almost no action on our part. For many of us, this change has become the reason of our screen addiction.

But why are we so addicted to scrolling? Well, scrolling has kind of an anaesthetic effect. When we scroll, we are not thinking about anything else, we are "releasing the stress of our day." Content after content, we let ourselves go, we almost end up self-hypnotizing. What we love is this attentive silence - "I do nothing, I think of nothing."

Chemically speaking, what happens in our brains with each scroll is like playing slot machines in a casino. Each scroll, each new content, is a mystery. We don't know what we'll come across: will it be better or worse? It's all down to chance - or rather, recommendation algorithms. And, as you may have guessed, not knowing what to expect is a little exciting. And for good reason, our brains are self-bombarded with shots of dopamine - the pleasure hormone. Every scroll, a shot. And when our brain like the content (because it's funny, intriguing or sensational), it's a double dose. And when it's not so enticing, let's try again!

And like slot machines, it's addictive, but not without consequences!

How Does Scrolling Affect Our Brains?

If lots of people believe that spending time on social media helps them relax and "clear their minds," they're mistaken. Actually, despite what many think, our brains aren't empty during this time: it's powering along at 200 miles an hour!

When you scroll on TikTok, your brain is actually interested in every piece of content it sees. Whether you're interested or not, it doesn't yet know the difference. With each piece of content, it works: it tries as best it can to find the context, the missing elements to fully understand and seek the link between before and after. Then you zap away, and the process starts all over again. Each new image means a new processing calculation. So imagine flooding your brain with around 90-135 TikToks per hour, all the information it has to process... It's enough to border on mental overload!

The same applies to dopamine production. Dopamine is a hormone that our bodies need. It's the hormone that gives us the motivation to carry out our daily tasks. What happens is that we all have a "basic" dose of dopamine in us. And with each rewarding action, this level rises slightly, giving us that feeling of happiness and satisfaction. Once this peak has passed, our dopamine level drops back down, often to slightly below our baseline average. The trouble with taking too many shots of dopamine is that it raises our average level. As a result, anything below that is bland and of less interest to us — We invite you to listen the amazing Andrew Huberman on the subject.

Don’t worry, TikTok will always be around

But your

won't wait.

Better Screen Time

Made simple. See by yourself.

⚡️

💜

🔒

⌨️

🌿

🌿

🌙

Don’t worry, TikTok will always be around

But your

won't wait.

Better Screen Time

All made simple. See by yourself.

⚡️

💜

🔒

⌨️

🌿

🌿

🌙

Don’t worry, TikTok will always be around

But your

won't wait.

Better Screen Time

Made simple. See by yourself.

⚡️

💜

🔒

⌨️

🌿

🌿

🌙

Don’t worry, TikTok will always be around

But your

won't wait.

Better Screen Time

All made simple. See by yourself.

Don’t worry, TikTok will always be around

But your

won't wait.

Better Screen Time

Made simple. See by yourself.

⚡️

💜

🔒

⌨️

🌿

🌿

🌙

Popular Derivatives

Apart from the purely neurochemical aspect, there's also questions regarding our mental health. The problem with these platforms is that the content they offer is managed by recommendation algorithms. Depending on the platform, these algorithms don't all work in the same way. YouTube, for example, relies on the proximity of subjects: if you like a video game, the platform will recommend others. Instagram and X also suggest content similar to what you like. TikTok, for its part, likes to vary the pleasures. In between two pieces of content that you're sure to enjoy, the platform slips in other content that you might like or that might pique your interest, prompting you to extend your stay on the platform a little longer!

If there's one thing to remember, it's that the TikTok algorithm don't take your happiness into account. It is based on a single piece of data: time spent. If, for example, you show an interest in subjects related to weight loss, the algorithm won't necessarily understand your desire to lose weight - it'll just remember that you're passionate about the subject. And when it tirelessly suggests more weight-loss content, it doesn't take into account the possible negative effects on you.

🥺 Complex Triggers

Social media can make some people feel bad about themselves. By constantly broadcasting content on a certain subject, some end up impacting their mental and physical well-being. Take, for example, the "Big Forehead" challenge on TikTok. The aim is simply to measure the size of your forehead with your fingers. The problem is that if it exceeds 6 fingers, it suddenly becomes a problem. In another register, the incessant promotion of an unreal lifestyle, widely disseminated by reality TV, where life boils down to lounging by a pool, creates a false representation of active life for the younger generations.

😷 Creators of Disease

But for some, it goes even further, to the point of creating real illnesses for them. Not only do social media can increase levels of stress, depression, and loneliness, for others it can go even further. In 2019, during the pandemic when many took refuge on the networks, young girls began to develop symptoms of Tourette Syndrome. What happened was that they all watched more and more creators with this disorder. And over-exposure to this content even created symptoms for them by mimicry: "these girls were more exposed to influencers with tics or Tourette Syndrome, which obviously had an impact on themselves".

How Can You Limit the Impact of TikTok on Your Brain?

So, while these platforms can help bring together individuals with various disorders, specific peculiarities, and even diseases, they can also generate undesirable effects when used excessively. Moderation in their use is crucial. Here's what you can do to protect yourself:

🤥 Develop a Critical Mind

Watching or reading too much of the same kind of content, especially about health, is not a good idea. It's also good to think for yourself and not just follow what everyone else is doing. According to Yim Register, a mental health researcher, TikTok often has people sharing very personal and intense experiences loudly. This makes others feel they need to share their deepest feelings too, to fit in. But, don't just take health advice from social media without checking if it's true. Always look for information from trusted sources and make sure it's backed up by scientific evidence and approved by official health organizations.

⏸️ Take Breaks

Let the dopamine subside a little before taking another shot. It's important to vary your activities to avoid becoming addicted to dopamine. Do things that don't interest you at first (washing up, cleaning, etc.). This will send a signal to your brain that entertainment isn't the only way to get a sense of satisfaction and gratification.

😮‍💨 Let Your Brain Breathe!

Doing nothing is one of the best things you can do all day! Yes, because contrary to what you may think, your brain is far from doing nothing. When it's "at rest," it's actually charcoal-burning. It purges the non-essential information it has recently accumulated, leaving storage space for new information. It also cross-references what it has learned to create logical connections, transforming it into knowledge. If you decide to block every "empty" moment in your day, you're short-circuiting this process! So give him time to clean himself up! (Bonus: it's also a great way to boost your creativity).

🔒 Force Yourself to Limit Your Time

If you're afraid you won't make it back to the real world when you're on these platforms, put up barriers for yourself! You can download the free Jomo app, available on the App Store, for iPhone and Mac. It's possible to block an application by default, requiring you to enter a duration of use and an intention BEFORE you start using it. Then, when the time is up, the app will be blocked again, automatically.

Save an average of nearly 2 hours a day by becoming more aware of your usage!


TikTok is a great place to share your creativity and connect with others. It's important to use TikTok wisely. Instead of banning it, we should use it carefully. This way, we can enjoy TikTok without overdoing it. Your mind will be happier this way!

🔗 University of MinnesotaDBSA ; TED Talk
✋ Illustrations by Jomo ; Photography Unsplash

Made with love in Brittany