'TikTok Takeover' Part II: How does TikTok affect your mental health? Experts talk addiction and building community

NOW: ’TikTok Takeover’ Part II: How does TikTok affect your mental health? Experts talk addiction and building community

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- How does TikTok affect a users' mental health? Local experts delve into new expectations and possible standards set by the addicting app, average time spent on it on a daily basis, and cyberbullying. Plus, they also weigh in on how TikTok has created inclusive communities for those who often feel like outcasts and how it can be a positive escape from reality as younger generations seek a breather from increased demands.

'TikTok Takeover' Part I: Is the clock ticking down on TikTok? Here's what you need to know

"Is the Internet pulling us apart as a country? The answer would be, yes," said content creator Geo Rutherford. "Do I think TikTok is doing that? No. Do I think that the Chinese government is going to succeed in that venture on TikTok? No. Personally, I don't think that."

There's a pull of inclusivity that TikTok offers for those who feel like outcasts.

"From communities of kids with chronic illnesses or for example, the LGTBQ community," explained Dr. Megan Moreno. "That can really be a place where they find their people."

Dr. Moreno, an adolescent health expert at UW Health, sees patients that range from 12 to 25 years old. She said she's come to realize that young ones now have less time than years past for personal connections due to increased demands.

"Teens are so incredibly busy and overstressed these days with all of the increased demands on their time and their activities, and their homework and college applications," she said. "One thing we hear is that social media is a way that they can stay connected with their friends and get updates on each other's lives."

There's also a push to keep one's mental health in check -- especially when it comes to comparisons and expectations on beauty and lifestyle.

"We also know that for some kids they can see content that would really trigger depression or anxiety; for some kids that might be comparing themselves to other people," Dr. Moreno added.

The expert emphasized comparisons didn't start with TikTok, it's actually been around for ages.

"A lot of the studies on social media show that it had similar effects to Seventeen magazine and then in the 90s people did a lot of studies on reality TV like MTV's 'Real World,'" said Dr. Moreno.

As more social media platforms gain popularity, more opportunities rise to hide behind a screen.

"In the old days, if you were bullied at school, you could get a break going home," she said.

But now, that's virtually impossible. Though Geo Rutherford said she has been lucky so far.

"I don't get any negative comments on my body or the fact that I'm a woman, I keep a little bit of a lower register in my voice on TikTok," Rutherford said.

Contrary to most content creators who are on the TikTok spotlight, Rutherford's educational videos on lakes solely include her forehead and expressive eyebrows.

"I did it originally because in 2020 I didn’t... you couldn’t shrink your head, right? You could, like, back up from it but I was like, 'get myself out of the way,' it's not about me, it’s about what I'm trying to share," Rutherford explained.

Lake Geneva travel junkie, "tpeck," said content creators also place a constant pressure on themselves to deliver.

"There's a standard that I hold for myself now within what I release and it's definitely a lot higher than it was two or three years ago," he shared. "Sometimes, like, a Saturday night will come around and my friends will want to go out to the clubs or bars and I'll sit there and just realize that, 'Hey if I don't post that 9 p.m. or midnight video, my analytics are probably going to spike low, and probably not going to make as much money that week;' so I feel like I'm constantly working, feel like I never really clock out but then again I love what I'm doing."

Even Rutherford said she posts less now because of how much time it takes to make a single video.

"I don’t do anything on my computer, I do everything on my phone and on the app so I spend 12 hours making those videos for 'Spooky Lake Month,'" she said.

Whether you're a TikTok creator or a consumer, Marquette University Director of Center for Data, Ethics and Society, Dr. Michael Zimmer says addiction may very well be inevitable.

"TikTok did kind of come out of nowhere as a really compelling, addictive...every time I install it on my phone, (I) get stuck on it for an hour, then I have to delete it," Dr. Zimmer said.


'TikTok Takeover’ Part III: What’s next for the app? Would restrictions or an outright ban threaten local businesses?

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