Secrets to How TikTok “Hooked” Millions of Teens…

Hey there! Since you clicked into this article, I dare you to do a challenge with me. Ready? Here we go. Honestly answer the following questions.


1. Is TikTok your first go-to when you wake up in the morning?

2. Ever had this moment? “Let me watch a couple of minutes of TikTok and then I’ll get to work!” Then what can seem like a couple of minutes quickly turns into a couple of hours?

3. Do you unintentionally start doing one of the TikTok dance moves in the middle of the day for no reason?

4. Ever spent more than an hour trying to get down a specific TikTok dance?

5. Do you post at least one TikTok every day?

If you answered “yes” to more than three out of the five questions above, congratulations to you! You are officially tested positive for TikTok addiction.


As of April, there are more than 30 million active users on TikTok from the United States, accounting for roughly 10% of the population in the United States. Although the number of users seems small compared to Instagram with a little more than 100 million active users in the US, TikTok is currently the fastest growing social media in the US as well as the world.

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According to the mobile-app analytics firm Sensor Tower, TikTok is the second most downloaded APP worldwide as of April 2020. Especially with life under quarantine, TikTok is experiencing exponential growth as millions of people around the world are now home with tons of free time.

For teens that are used to making TikTok all the time with friends, they are now exposing their millennial or even baby boomer parents to the world of TikTok as people are stuck at home. Families are now making TikTok together, reports The Wall Street Journal.

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Released in August 2018, TikTok is a popular video-sharing app with videos ranging from memes, silly dances, pranks, to current news events. TikTok is owned by the Chinese firm ByteDance, one of the most valuable startups in the world with a valuation of $75 billion.


What, exactly, contributed to the recent explosive success and popularity of TikTok? And how did TikTok set itself apart from traditional social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? And finally, what’s the best way out for those who were already addicted? Before we can fight off the addiction, it is essential to first understand how we got addicted in the first place.

It's about how the app was designed

1. TikTok finds out what you like, before you know it yourself.

Different from traditional social media platforms where users make decisions on the types of content to be displayed in their feed, TikTok simply feeds you with content. For example on Instagram, nothing will be in your feed unless you actively follow others who are also on the platform, either your friends or public figures.

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However, following is completely optional on TikTok. The second you open the app, TikTok starts feeding you with endless content and tracks your every move on the app. The more you spend on the app, the more TikTok understands your interests.

2. Its machine-learning algorithm analyzes your every move and feeds you with the right content.

By analyzing how many seconds you spent on each video, how fast you swipe to the next video, and how you engage (likes, comment, and share) with the videos, TikTok’s algorithm understands more about you and starts to accurately feed you with the content most relevant to you.

In an interview with TikTok founder Zhang Yiming, Mr. Zhang suggested that most consumers simply do not know what they want. They are unsure of their needs and interests. TikTok went around the issue by figuring out what users like before they even know it themselves.

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TikTok’s machine-learning algorithm has redefined social media, and is a key as to getting users hooked on the platform.

3. Our attention span is getting shorter

Shockingly so, the current attention span of humans is only 8 seconds. Living in the world bombarded by all kinds of information, we are constantly being distracted. By featuring its short 15 to 60 seconds light-hearted videos, TikTok appealed to our needs for quick short-term gratifications.

Average Attention Span of Human

4. Infinite scroll and Full Screen Video Content

Once you open the app, a full-screen video will soon hook your eyeball. What, you don’t like that video? Simply swipe up and boom, you get a new video. Similar to how it works in other social media platforms, infinite scroll makes you wonder about what comes next. Therefore, a couple of minutes of relaxation will soon turn into a couple of hours of unproductive TikTok.

Scrolling Through TikTok

TikTok is also taking advantage of our innate human desires

If you think the app’s design was already enough to get you hooked more than ever, you are wrong. TikTok really understands who we are as humans. By abusing our innate desires as humans, TikTok was able to further hold us in its trap.

1. Everyone has an innate desire to be important

Dr. John Dewey, one of America’s most profound philosophers, said that the deepest urge in human nature is ‘the desire to be important.”

The deepest urge in human nature is the desire to be important…

John Dewey

Unlike on YouTube where creators are required to build a following first in order to get views, TikTok is like a democracy where everyone has an equal chance of going viral. You can simply post a video one day, sit back, and watch it blow up the next day.

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TikTok’s algorithm has empowered everyday teens and young adults to potentially become social media influencers overnight. Aside from gaining a more favorable status among their peers, many also achieved financial freedom through influencer marketing.

2. Fear of Missing Out

With the increase of popularity, more and more trends and memes are happening on TikTok. In her report for WSJ, Joanna Stern illustrates how trends are created on TikTok.

With this cycle, new trends are created on TikTok over and over. People not only talk about it but also come up with their own twist hoping that it will be the next banger.

(Credit: The Wall Street Journal: Joanna Stern)

In fact, Mason Fulp, with more than 2 million followers on TikTok, said in his Social Media Influencer course, “The best way to create viral content is to ride the trend. I’ve done that many times myself.”

The best way to create viral content is to ride the trend. I’ve done that many times myself.

Mason Fulp

Seriously, do you want to miss out on what your friends are talking about the next day you go to school? When all your friends are talking about a new meme that went viral yesterday, do you want to be the one standing behind not exactly sure what they are referring to?

Or when your friends are starting to get followings on TikTok, from a few hundred followers to a few thousand, then a few hundred thousand, do you want to miss out on this?

I am sure the answer is no. Ultimately as humans, we all have these innate desires to feel important and be accepted by our peers.


Ultimately, TikTok is a commercial company trying to make a profit either from user attention or users-generated content. The question is how we can best interact with TikTok in a fun but also healthy manner? There is nothing wrong with wanting to make a “banger” or become “TikTok famous” but the important question to ask is why.

Why do you want to make a banger and be TikTok famous? What’s unique about you?

Do you want to bring a scent of positivity to the lives of other people? Is your goal to entertain and make someone’s day? Are you looking to inspire others with your passion? Are you seeking to inform people about important current issues?

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with trying to be TikTok famous. It is our innate human desires after all. But guess what? That’s the same thing millions of others are doing as well.

It’s important to first know why you do what you do. Having a purpose is essential to success. Without a purpose, the journey of becoming TikTok famous could lead to anxiety and depression especially when comparing to others that are “better” and more attractive

Know Who You Are and Set Yourself Apart

Keep in mind that just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do. Stay consistent with your goals and purposes. And most importantly, stay true to yourself.

TikTok Slogan: Make Your Day

As the world-renowned scientist Albert Einstein once said, “the person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.”

The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.

Albert Einstein

The bottom line: Yes, TikTok is goofy and brings tons of fun. As TikTok’s slogan says, “Make your day!” But do not let our day be made of TikTok.

Published on May 14, 2020 at 9:50 PM EST

3 thoughts on “Secrets to How TikTok “Hooked” Millions of Teens…”

  1. TikTok maybe the company which will beyond facebook in the future 10 years, which is a interesting comment from tech-investment area.

    And more, as a Chinese company,Tiktok still need a long way to go in the world, Chinese companies still need to do more.

    The most important thing to care on this kind of social medium is the Algorithm, don’t try to fight against the Algorithm, try to use them and make them to be a good tools for us to hook the content which we are really need.
    Content doesn’t matter, how to use content matters.

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