TikTok Is Essentially ‘Digital Crack,’ Wall Street Analysts Warn It Could ‘Ruin’ the Internet

Analysts at Bernstein Research are equating social media video app TikTok with drug addiction, warning about a “digital crack epidemic” as competition heats up in the sector.

TikTok has replaced “the friction of deciding what to watch and ‘boring’ status update images” with a “sensory rush of bite-sized videos powered by a Chinese-owned, black-box algorithm,” the analysts said in a research note titled, “Has TikTok ruined the Internet?” according to Business Insider. “The algorithm pushed the most viral content directly to the user delivering endorphin hit after hit with each swipe,” the analysts wrote.

“Cocaine’s effects take time to set in, while crack’s effect is instantaneous, but wears off quickly, driving the user to seek another ‘hit.’ Crack is incredibly addictive.”

As other platforms attempt to compete against TikTok, the situation is turning out to be a “digital crack epidemic.” Following the popularity of TikTok, Instagram launched Reels in 2020, Snapchat released Spotlight, YouTube released Shorts, and Netflix launched Fast Laughs.

Analysts predict a potential downside due to the popularity of short-form video apps—an erosion of human attention span that can affect advertisers and content creators. Short videos can “structurally dilute the monetization of user time” across the digital advertising industry, the analysts warned.

They also see some of the text and image-heavy news feeds on social media platforms to soon be replaced by short videos.

If these platforms cannot figure out how to monetize such videos using direct response ads, the consequences can be “severe,” the note said. Direct response ads prompt users to act on the ad, like clicking, signing up, and initiating a purchase.

TikTok is estimated to have more than 138 million active users in the United States. In April 2022, the app brought in 39.2 million mobile unique visitors in the country, which is almost triple the 12.6 million from April 2021.

The potential of TikTok being addictive has been explored by several studies in recent times. A study published at ScienceDirect in June 2022 found 6.4 percent of TikTok users as being “at-risk” of addiction, with a further 25.4 percent classified as being at “low risk.”

TikTok users found to be “at-risk” tended to score higher in measures of extraversion and loneliness. Female users of the app were also more likely to be classified as “at-risk” than male users.

“It also suggests that the most definitive signs of addiction are that the user becomes nervous, irritable, anxious, or exhibits strong feelings of sadness when deprived of access to the social networking site (withdrawal) and the user’s attempts to control participation in SNS [social networking sites] are unsuccessful (relapse),” author Troy Smith told PsyPost.

Demographically, Americans between the ages of 10 and 19 make up the top user base of TikTok in the country, at 32.5 percent. This is followed by 20–29 years, at 29.5 percent; 30–39 years, at 16.4 percent; 40–49 years, at 13.9 percent; and 50-plus, at 7.1 percent.

Reporting from The Epoch Times.