💊 Why's TikTok 5,000% more addicting?

and how to apply the sneaky tactics to good habits

Time spent on TikTok is up 5,000% for US users compared to 2018. Most are spending nearly an hour per day on the app… and if that doesn’t smell like a habit, I don’t know what does.

But the real question is WHY?


Short answer: staying is easier than leaving

Here's the longer-but-still-short-ish answer...

If you’ve never used TikTok, the app works by feeding you an infinite stream of videos it thinks you’ll love.

And it scrolls for you.


Yeah, you know how Instagram and Facebook require the laborious thumb workout of constant scrolling to continue consuming content?


TikTok either really doesn’t want you to get carpol tunnel, or it just loves when you sucked into the black hole of random dance videos. (probably the latter)


Fortunately (for TikTok) and unfortunately (for us), it’s scary good at both.


Because much like other habits, it’s easier to do something often when it requires less (or no) effort.


Less effort = more likely to do

More effort = less likely to do


So the (evil?) geniuses at TikTok have become pros at making it as frictionless of an experience as possible.


On Facebook, you have to choose to open the app. Then if you want to see a video, you actually have to make the choice of clicking on it.


Sam Lesson, former VP of Product at Facebook, explains that the problem is people are uncomfortable admitting to the things they truly would enjoy watching. Facebook might recommend a video that you don’t believe matches your core values… So even though deep down you secretly want to watch it, you just can’t get yourself to click on it.


TikTok doesn’t care about your core values, or what you think you want to do. The only choice you're required to make is opening the app. After that, they put that questionable video right in front of your face. No clicking. No scrolling. As long as you don't go through the effort to swipe it away, they'll show more like it.

You don’t even have to follow a single person for their AI to learn exactly what videos keep you on the app longer, and automatically serve them to you endlessly.


Unlike Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc who worry about trying to curate a feed of your friends' or favorite creators' posts, it almost strictly uses AI driven recommendations.


Put simply, it is solely optimized to keep your eyeballs on the app.


TikTok couldn't care less who made the content, whether you told it you liked those things or not, or who you think you'd rather watch.


If you're still watching, it'll keep similar content coming to keep you there as long as possible.

It’s wicked easy, and wicked good at holding your attention.

While writing this article, apparently Facebook and Instagram have been updated to more closely resemble TikTok, and the changes will continue coming.

Thankfully, just being aware of how these apps are engineered to take advantage of your psychology is the first defense against a nasty habit.

Just like muscles, if you stop reasoning, your reasoning muscles get weak.

Even if (or especially if!) you love using AI tools and technology (like I do), practice engaging your mind in other tasks, games, or projects to reason and problem solve.

For me, as much as I despise house projects, it keeps pushing me to solve problems and think creatively in entirely different ways than I do in my job or anything else I'm involved in.

There's even apps you can download just for keeping your mind sharp! (sudoku, anyone?)

Choose to own responsibility for what happens in your life.

It's no one else's fault, and you are 100% capable to change (almost) anything about your life.

In a world obsessed with making things easier, purposely doing hard things and solving your own problems could make you smarter and wiser than anyone you know.

(and sure... try, like, not using a calculator once a year or something...)

Grit is not about banging your head against a brick well. It's about looking for a way around the wall.

Adam Grant

we drive past a firetruck

her: “Is that a ice cream car?”