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Be more active on TikTok, become less addicted

Oct 09, 2020 · 5 min read

Tiktok addiction

When Trump decided to ban TikTok, my friend immediately downloaded it. He knew it was addictive. That’s why he hadn’t downloaded it before. But, now that it was going to be banned, he wanted to check out what the hype was. On the off chance that he actually got addicted to it, he’d be free of the addiction once the ban was in place. Win-win, right?

Unfortunately or fortunately, it’s still available in the app stores months later. And it’s not quite clear what exactly will happen. An American company might buy it, or the Supreme Court might say that’s illegal, or one of the TikTok clones might succeed in copying TikTok’s addictive discovery algorithm.

The more important question is, short of your government literally banning Tik Tok, what can you actually do about this addiction? How can you redesign your TikTok experience so that you are more productive and get more value for your time?

Be more active on TikTok

You might be asking…what? How does becoming more active on TikTok make me more productive? Let me explain.

Today, if all your activity on TikTok is scrolling, watching, and liking whatever content you see, then you’re just consuming content and therefore, are a passive TikTok user.

Instead I’m asking you to become an active TikTok user, one that provides dialogue back to the community. By doing so, you’ll also find that your goals for using TikTok are more deeply satisfied.

Create on TikTok

By creating your own content, you’re getting three benefits that you weren’t before:

1) You’re learning about content creation, video editing, and other valuable marketing skills in today’s world.

2) You’re more active in the world outside of TikTok.

How many videos do you watch where the person is just talking to you? In contrast, how many videos have you seen where people are dancing, singing, or pulling stunts? Those things are just plain fun.

3) You’re establishing dialogue.

Instead of passively consuming content, you’re actually processing, learning, and sharing your own insights back. What better way is there to actually connect with people?

You can get started adopting a simple rule where every 3 videos you watch, you have to do a return video for one of them. It takes more effort, but that effort is valuable to you outside of TikTok as well.

Change what you find rewarding

Change your metric for what it means to have a friendship or positive interaction with someone. Instead of it being the # of likes or followers you get, have it be the depth of the interaction. Value the dialogue you have, time spent and lessons learned. These are harder to evaluate as they are intangible, but in the long run, they will also lead to a more enriching life.

Disable all your notifications from TikTok except for the ones that invite dialogue.

Updated TikTok notification settings screen

Updated TikTok notification settings screen

Limit your time as a passive TikTok user

Leave Your Phone Behind

Do you find yourself automatically reaching for your phone whenever you’re bored?

Me too.

Try leaving your phone behind if you’re going to another room.

It’ll create a little space between your boredom and the routine of grabbing the phone and going on TikTok for hours. And that space will let you be more mindful of going on TikTok. If you really need your phone later, you can always go back and grab it then.

Slow Your Scroll

TikTok is always learning about the best video to show to you. It’s learning from your behavior on the platform from how long you’re watching a video to how quickly you’re scrolling to when you like what videos. And, it always has another video waiting for you when you’re ready to move on from your current video.

Infinite scrolling is easy and seductive, but not really satisfying.

You probably keep scrolling because it’s easy enough to do and there might be something potentially interesting if you keep scrolling. But, the more you scroll and watch, the less satisfying each new video will be.

You can change this by slowing your scroll.

Instead of partially watching one video and moving on to the next and the next. You can give each video you watch your full attention until it’s done whether you like it or not. And, you’ll be satisfied faster.

Set A Timer Before Using TikTok

Decide how long you want to go on TikTok before going on it. Whether it’s 10 min or even an hour, by determining a time limit beforehand you’re making it possible to control your habit.

Set a timer for that limit and then use TikTok with the intention that when the time is up, you will stop using the app and turn off the timer. If you still want to keep browsing TikTok after the time is reached, then start the timer up again for another 10 min and repeat.

The key to this is to always keep using the timer. Mess around with the timer duration or keep turning off and resetting the timer again. But never snooze or stop using the timer while on TikTok.

The timer creates a space between your use of the app and your decision to use it. By establishing the timer habit first, you can establish boundaries for the amount of time you spend on TikTok. From then onwards, you can work on reducing the time allowed per session or the # of sessions, a little bit at a time (e.g. reduce by 2 min every time).


If you try out any of these strategies, let me know how it goes!

The two apps I did so far, Netflix and TikTok, were both fully digital experiences. Next week, I’m planning to tackle Amazon, a mixed online AND offline experience – it’ll be fun!

Thanks to Louis Pereira, Robert Terrin, Matt Susskind, Rhishi Pethe for reading early drafts of this.