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The Student News Site of Schoolcraft College

Schoolcraft Connection

The Student News Site of Schoolcraft College

Schoolcraft Connection

Easy-to-consume content

Tiktok, Instagram reels and short-form media’s effects on the brain
Free Stock photos by Vecteezy

Do you watch Tiktok on a daily basis?

Or maybe you scroll through Instagram, pass a reel and suddenly get sucked into a one-hour-long rabbit hole about kittens wearing strawberry costumes or videos of someone’s grandmother dancing to a rap song. 

Whatever you get distracted by, you aren’t the only one spending a good deal of time on these apps.

Globally, an estimated number of 7.33 billion people around the world own a mobile phone or smart device. Of these people, many use social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, Youtube, along with other popular social networking platforms while on their phones. These platforms are commonly used to create what is called digestible or easy-to-consume content, which is content designed for consumers to easily understand in the smallest amount of time available. 

Easy-to-consume content is most frequently thought of in the form of short videos such as tiktoks, reels or Youtube shorts. These types of videos can be extremely convenient and informative for consumers to watch and entertain themselves. 

Platforms that showcase this kind of content also design their algorithms to keep consumers on their apps for as long as possible. Short-form media draws viewers in by showing pleasurable content that gives the user instant gratification or a dopamine hit which can keep the viewer scrolling for longer. 

In essence, this content is designed to be addictive, and its effects on people, especially younger ones, are not subtle. 

Everyone has their own opinions and perspectives on social media and short-form content consumption. It has upsides, downsides and in-betweens that affect various age groups differently. It can ultimately come down to how the person uses these apps and consumes the content. 

For entrepreneurs or small businesses, this type of media can be a great resource for business promotion. Short-form content can also be a learning tool for discovering new information and new perspectives from people. It provides an opportunity to easily connect people of like minds. However, this type of content is easy to misuse, can be used to spread misinformation, has addictive tendencies and can also affect the brains of consumers who use apps like these long-term. 

The current human attention span has decreased from 12 seconds to just 8.25 seconds since the year 2000 according to Golden Steps APA company. This decrease in attention span has been linked to over consumption of short-form content such as tiktoks or reels, and this content has also shown to affect distractibility and neural development of the brain among children, adolescents and young adults.

In an article published by the American Psychological Association, it stated that there are “two highly critical periods for adaptive neural development.” The first happens when a child is one year old, and the second happens between the ages of 10-25 years old. This second period has been known to be “highly relevant, as this is when a great number of youths are offered relatively unfettered access to devices and unrestricted or unsupervised use of social media and other online platforms.”

For adolescents, the effects of this unrestricted use manifest in a number of ways. 

To start, teens are especially vulnerable to craving social rewards and attention since their prefrontal cortex in the brain is not fully developed yet. Peer feedback is especially important to them during this time because they are still developing, so they do not have a strong ability to inhibit their behavior or resist temptations. So, when it comes to social approval or gratification, they do not know when to stop. 

As a result, many teens can struggle to restrain themselves from social media/short form content overconsumption and can develop a clinical dependency and even depression from these apps. Long term developmental changes in the amygdala (fear and aggression center of the brain) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex have also been observed.

For younger children, too much screen time has been associated with some hindrances to language development, particularly dramatic changes to their neural language networks. These changes may compromise their reading skills as they get older. 

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Caitlin Cherry, Campus Life Editor

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