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Latest study identifies ‘TikTok addiction’ and the symptoms that show when users have it

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A recent study has identified a number of the behaviours of “TikTok addiction”, when users develop a dependence on the viral video app.

TikTok, which has not been studied as much as other social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, can encourage compulsive behaviour.

Troy Smith, from the University of Trinidad and Tobago, analysed data from 354 college students, which included 173 TikTok users and 313 Facebook users.

The Facebook users accomplished a questionnaire generally known as the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale, which measures the six core elements of addiction: salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict, and relapse.

On the Facebook Addiction Scale, the factors are: Having obsessive thoughts about Facebook, feeling an urge to make use of Facebook increasingly, using Facebook to ignore personal problems, attempting to cut down on the usage of Facebook without success, becoming restless or upset when prohibited from using Facebook, and using Facebook a lot that it negatively impacts school or work.

For this study, a version of the dimensions was adapted by which the word “Facebook” was replaced by “TikTok.”

Users who scored higher on this scale used TikTok more intensively, and although nearly all of users (68.2 per cent) were classified as having “no risk” of TikTok addiction, 25.4 per cent of them were seen as being at “low risk,” and classified 6.4 per cent as being “at-risk.” TikTok currently has one billion users globally.

“Although most users appear to make use of TikTok in a non-problematic manner, the study demonstrates that the chance of overuse and possible problematic use exists and is related to addiction-like behaviors that may potentially negatively impact the every day lives of victims,” Dr Smith told PsyPost.

“Further, the study emphasizes while similarities exist between the addictive process occurring in Facebook and TikTok there are significant differences in manifestation, predictors, and usage intensity related to average vs problematic use. As such, a user can exhibit problematic use on a selected platform and never have the identical maladaptive response with the broader category of social media.

Essentially the most definitive signs of addiction, Dr Smith went on, are that the user grow to be nervous, irritable, anxious, or exhibits strong feelings of sadness when deprived of access to the social networking site.

“TikTok addiction is surely a really real thing. Unfortunately what this research hasn’t explored is society’s dependency to the web because the pandemic. We were forced into an online-only world, in each our working and private lives. Social Networking Sites like TikTok became a type of escapism for a lot of, especially our younger generation but what starts as harmless enjoyment can quickly become something more serious”, Nuno Albuquerque, Consultant Treatment Lead for the UK Addiction Treatment Group comments;

“We all know this because we treat people for social media and web based addictions, and we’ve got seen first-hand an increase within the number of individuals we’re treating for this since 2020. But the problem is available in the way in which we treat this addiction, especially when an abstinence based treatment model isn’t appropriate. As a substitute, we give attention to the person’s personal triggers, setting boundaries and limits, encouraging real-life interactions to negate feelings of loneliness and methods to construct self-worth and esteem.”

In a press release, TikTok said: “We’re focused on supporting the well-being of our community in order that they feel answerable for their TikTok experience. We take steps similar to proactively surfacing in-feed reminders to take breaks from our app, limiting evening push notifications for younger users, and enabling parents to administer screen time as a part of our Family Pairing features.”

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