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The Fake Dopamine Kick - Tiktok, Reels & Shorts.

Understanding how 15-second videos can make you so addicted.

By AeriousPublished 7 months ago 4 min read
PC: Pexels


The rise of short-form videos has been steady as the attention spans of social media users continue to decrease. Vine, which allowed users to create and share six-second videos, was the first to introduce this format and disrupted the internet video space. As competitors like Instagram adopted the format, Vine was sidelined and ended in 2016.

Short History:

Then, Tik Tok entered the platform and revolutionized the internet. TikTok started as Douyin, created by Byte Dance exclusively for China. The app garnered over 100 million users within one year and generated one billion views per day. To reach an international audience, the company released Tik Tok, the internationally available version of Douyin.

Real Ghost

The Boom:

In November 2017, Bytedance acquired Musically, which had similar features to Tik Tok and had a global reach. Both ventures merged in August 2018 under the Tik Tok name. Since then, the app has hit one billion international downloads and emerged as one of the best social media platforms in the world.

In America, Tik Tok was very popular by 2020, but in June 2020, other countries like India banned Tik Tok alongside 59 other Chinese apps, citing security concerns. Within a month, Instagram created its short video feature called reels, and countless other platforms have entered this market.

The unique selling point (USP):

The USP of these platforms is the endless cycle of short-form videos, which last for around 10-15 seconds. These platforms use dynamic algorithms to understand the likes and dislikes of users, track content information through hashtags and engagements, and evaluate every uploaded video to determine the probability that the user will enjoy it.

These may seem harmless and fun but are very addictive. The average human attention span is now eight seconds, two seconds less than that of a goldfish. One reason for the decline is the increased consumption of information. Content is increasing in volume, which exhausts our attention, and our urge for ‘newness’ causes us to switch between topics more regularly. Hence, these platforms have created a format that precisely fits this time frame.

On Instagram reels, you can scroll through millions of 10-15 seconds long videos effortlessly.

Likes and views don't reflect real-world success or happiness.

Fake Emotional Kick:

These platforms target the reward system of the user. Our brain feels rewarded when an action or behavior gives us pleasure. Information is also one such commodity that brings rewards. The internal reward system is triggered by a neurotransmitter called Dopamine. It is the chemical that mediates pleasure in the brain. It is released during pleasurable situations and stimulates one to seek a gratifying activity or occupation. Dopamine creates a feedback loop that pushes individuals to redo the actions that gave them pleasure. This process is seen in many addictions and now in reels and Tik Toks. So when a user doesn’t like a video, they will constantly scroll to achieve the desired reward. The information on these platforms is trendy, exciting, and holds social currency, hence demanding full, undivided attention.

The Real Victims:

Most users of platforms like Instagram reels and Tik Tok belong to the young-adult age group, who are specifically susceptible to addictions.

Don't let anyone consume your time

Hence, the combination of the algorithm, short attention span, and the need for a Dopamine rush is malignant in the long run. Increased usage of social media platforms has been linked to countless mental health problems. Disorders like anxiety, self-doubt, depression, body image issues have cited increased social media consumption as a weighty contributor.

Continuous use of social media platforms has already caused a decrease in the attention span of an average human being. This decline will continue with further consumption. Hence, it is vital to remember that these 15-second videos may seem harmless but can lead to several problems.


The popularity of short-form videos has been on the rise as social media junkies' attention spans continue to dwindle. Platforms like Vine, TikTok, Youtube Shorts and Instagram Reels have revolutionized the internet video space with their endless cycle of 10-15 seconds long videos. However, these platforms' algorithms, combined with our short attention spans and need for a dopamine rush, can be detrimental to our mental health in the long run, especially for young adults who are more susceptible to addictions.

Quit phone and Join the real world

So, while it may be difficult to stay away from these platforms, we must find a way to detox, disconnect, and reconnect with the real world. Take a break, talk to your loved ones, read a book, or go for a walk. Remember, there is an entire world outside that 6-inch screen, and it's worth exploring.

The End

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