TikTok, a social media platform, has gained traction worldwide, with over one billion monthly active users. However, new research in the journal Addictive Behaviors shows that certain individuals may develop a pathological dependence on the platform.
Many studies have examined the implications of excessive Facebook use. However, there is relatively little research on TikTok, which became available outside of China in 2017, according to the authors.
After jokingly telling my wife that she is addicted to TikTok and WhatsApp, I spoke with two persons who described their interactions with adolescents they found to be primarily addicted to social media or the internet, according to research author Troy Smith of the University of Trinidad and Tobago.
When he was restricted, one person revealed that their son seemed nervous, refused to eat, and even tried to lie for access to social networking sites (SNS). This was especially timely, as only months ago there were several instances of adolescent death or harm associated with TikTok challenges.
On my first search of the ongoing literature, I explained that although TikTok has grown rapidly compared to Facebook, research into its use were limited, and that a scale to measure its maladaptive use was absent. I wanted to know how common these addictive behaviors influenced TikTok use were, and enrich my understanding of the mechanisms under which.
354 college students were analysed, including 173 TikTok users and 313 Facebook users.
Facebook users completed a scientifically validated questionnaire called the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale, which examined six topics: having obsessive thoughts about Facebook, being inclined to forget about personal issues, striving to eliminate Facebook without success, becoming restless or upset when prohibited from using Facebook, and having a negative impact on school or work. TikTok users completed a modified version of the scale, in which the word Facebook was replaced.
Higher scores on the TikTok addiction scale were associated with increased bandwidth utilization of the platform. Using a statistical technique known as latent profile analysis, which allows individuals with similar responses to be grouped together, the researchers classified the majority of TikTok users (68.2%) as having no risk of TikTok addiction, classified 25.4% as at low risk, and classified 6.4% as at-risk.
Smith and his colleagues compared Facebook addiction to previous research. At-risk TikTok users tended to score higher on measures of loneliness and extraversion. Female TikTok users were also more likely to be at-risk than male users.
According to Smith, although most users appear to use TikTok in a non-problematic manner. The study also proves that excessive use and misuse are linked to abusive behaviors that can potentially adversely impact the daily lives of sufferers.
While there are significant differences in manifestation, predictors, and usage intensity as a result of average versus problematic use, the research claims. As such, an individual can demonstrate problematic use on a specific platform, not having the same maladaptive response with the larger category of social media.
Although the users have become irritable, anxious, and express certain feelings of displeasure when they are refused access to the social networking site (withdrawal), the results suggest that the users'' attempts to control participation in the SNS are unsuccessful (relapse).
The Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale has previously been developed to study problematic Instagram usage, and the newly validated TikTok scale provides researchers with a valuable tool to better understand the maladaptive use of the video platform.
The validity of a problematic use scale for TikTok is limited, however, the possibility for other researchers to investigate the phenomenon is limited. This is important given that the use of a valid scale boosts credibility in future research, and that a standard measure allows studies to be compared and patterns more easily identified.
While SNS may be a useful medium for social interaction, communication, and artistic expression, its use as a mechanism to escapism can be harmful as it does not solve possible underlying psychological issues such as loneliness and low-self-esteem. However, it may also create new problems due to problematic use and the literature suggests it may increase the risk of cybercrime victimization.
Troy Smith and Andy Short co-authored the study, Needs affordance, as a major factor in the likelihood of problematic social media use.