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How TikTok's 24-Hour Live Service Is Altering American Attention Spans and Dominating Screen Time

by Riley Cook

It’s 2024, and putting the phone down to seek other means of enjoyment may be becoming harder and harder to do.

In the spring, I like to take my dog to a nearby harbor in New Rochelle, but during the summer, this harbor charges its guests $10 a day for entry. Adding to that, since COVID, many coffee shops no longer allow you to sit and enjoy your coffee and snack inside—gone are the days when you could sit in a Starbucks on your laptop and slowly sip your cappuccino. With third places charging fees and coffee shops giving us the boot, what’s there to do that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? Oh, doomscrolling. Doomscrolling, also known as doomsurfing, is the act of spending too much time reading large amounts of negative news on social media and the internet.


While it is not common for the average person to search for negative news and/or entertainment on, let’s say, YouTube or Instagram, TikTok, in some ways, leaves you no choice. If you come across one video of someone complaining about the job market and how bad the economy is, and you engage with it, you may find yourself getting an influx of similar content. Next thing you know, you’re heading down the rabbit hole and struggling to get out. This can lead to mental exhaustion, depression, increased panic, and the development of low self-esteem.


While many people get on TikTok to vent their frustrations, others flaunt their earnings from the platform. If you’re not someone who has ever thought about being an influencer, being jobless and broke while seeing a creator like EKane walk into a bank and withdraw $50,000 in 60 seconds might make you rethink your priorities. Sadly, TikTok knows this all too well.


The app is designed to keep its users on as long as possible, and now, with their most recent update—according to user Savings With Tay—TikTok is now requiring its users to go live if they want to increase their chances of going viral and earning additional income. It’s all fun and games until we see everyone, everywhere, walking around with their phones, speaking into them, dancing in parking lots, and pretty much living out an episode of Black Mirror.


But how did we get here, and why is this only happening in America? Creators from countries such as Nigeria cannot earn money from the TikTok creator fund, and in Canada as well, though they have other avenues they can explore to earn revenue. So, it makes you wonder, is America a target? If mostly Americans are dancing and spending countless hours on the app, doesn’t that mean they’ll be too distracted to focus their attention on anything else?


Fewer people joining the military, fewer people studying to become lawyers or doctors, fewer people in trades, and fewer people socializing in real time. TikTok is destroying America from the inside out by dangling money in our faces—they are taking the one thing Americans brag about having the most of and turning it into a steak on a stick, essentially treating Americans like rabid dogs.


Not only that, but they are capitalizing on everyone they have on the app—with ads now showing up at the end of videos, live streams every other video, sponsored content every three videos—and the saddest part is, this is still not enough to deter its users. So, what’s it going to take? Can America be great again?


There is a bigger conversation that needs to be had when a social media application is turning your citizens into unproductive robots. Many employers are refusing to hire Gen Z workers and even some Millennials out of fear of being called out on the app for unfair work practices. Many users have reported losing their jobs after either being caught recording themselves while at work or complaining about their job while still wearing their work uniform.


So, is it that jobs are not hiring, or are they locating these prospects on social media and deciding against hiring them for fear of being called out online if a manager denies them PTO? If everyone is on TikTok, then what will happen to this country’s citizens and the economy as a whole? TikTok is ruining America, and it’s far worse than we think.


They say that America is waking up, but yet, even after knowing everything about the government—how poorly they spend our tax dollars, the poison in our food—there still has not been a rebellion. If the excuse and the pushback for a TikTok ban is that the government is upset about all the information citizens are being privy to, then why hasn’t anyone started a protest or a revolt? Maybe people don’t want TikTok for its information; maybe they want it for the escapism it brings, but if everyone needs to escape 24/7, what’s going to be left of the country? It’s time to turn off the phones and check into rehab.

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