The latest viral social media platform has not only made headlines all around the globe, but it has become a major talking point for young people’s struggles with anxiety.

An app for making and sharing short videos, TikTok encourages interactivity among its users. The short form makes it easy to consume hundreds of creations in a short amount of time. Many are raw footage of people’s lives, but most offer only a heavily edited snapshot into a creator’s world. Although it can be a tool for learning or finding community, does its edit-heavy nature worsen or alleviate anxiety?

Thanks to neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez Psy.D. we know that, “When you scroll and hit upon something that makes you laugh, your brain receives a hit of dopamine.” What this means in the simplest terms is that each time you see a funny video, you feel good. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that allows the human brain to feel pleasure and can be released when someone plays a favorite sport or even when they take drugs. Thanks to the videos on TikTok being so short, a user can receive dozens of dopamine hits in just a few minutes.

However, these videos are snapshots and rarely are they accurate ones. TikTok employs various types of filters to alter someone’s appearance. While these filters don’t always look realistic, prolonged exposure could start to affect the unconscious mind and make people take a deeper look, even an unhealthy one, at their appearance. In addition to self-criticism, a creator can receive criticism from their viewers. The more someone posts on TikTok, the greater the chances of receiving negative comments. These negative comments can come from anyone, from trolls to bigots to well-meaning people, but the sheer amount can make a young person think that a large amount of people dislike them, or perhaps that the trolls speak the truth—even though that’s not truly the case.

That’s not to say TikTok is all doom and gloom. People start using TikTok initially for one reason and one reason only—it’s entertaining. Making videos on TikTok is also extremely easy and has proven a creative outlet for many young people.

Beyond this, however, TikTok also offers futures for many young people. It’s no coincidence that the app is favored by Ariana Grande, Brittany Spears, and Reese Witherspoon. There’s a reason that there are dedicated TikTok scouting agencies and a plethora of sponsors waiting to show off their products through this platform. Although many don’t get to the point of receiving sponsor offers or achieving fame, TikTok is still a social media app at its core, and allows many to make friends they could not otherwise have.

All in all, the question of if TikTok worsens or alleviates mental health is a complex one. The app is a double sided sword. For everyone the app helps find their place in the world, there are others who question their place. For everyone who receives newfound confidence and growing praise, there are others who are kicked while they are down. TikTok has an effect on mental health, but whether its overall benefits outweigh the cons have yet to be seen—and by then it might be too late.


8 Pros and Cons of TikTok on Kids’ Mental Health.Cyberwise, 9 September 2020.

Jennings, Rebecca. “This week in TikTok: How does TikTok know I have ADHD?Vox, 9 February 2021.

Mlot, Stephanie. “TikTok Bans Deepfakes, Expands Fact-Checking to Fight Election Misinformation.” Entrepreneur, 6 August 2020.

Thorpe, J.R. “Why You Shouldn’t Worry About TikTok Destroying Your Attention Span.Bustle, 10 February 2021.

Photo by Amanda Vick on Unsplash

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