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I'm Gen Z and spent 7 hours a week on TikTok. I deleted the app and now have more time to do actually fun things.

Hannah Getahun   

I'm Gen Z and spent 7 hours a week on TikTok. I deleted the app and now have more time to do actually fun things.
  • A Gen Z reporter decided to delete the TikTok app from her phone.
  • The addictive nature of the app's algorithm led to wasted hours on mindless content.

Watching that white musical note disappear from my iPhone screen was more satisfying than any ASMR video I could ever watch.

After a few years of spending about 7 hours a week on arguably the trendiest app of the 2020s, I decided it was time to say goodbye to TikTok — although I'm unsure if it will be a permanent decision.

I created my TikTok account at the pandemic's start while stuck at home with nothing to do. And while the past four years have been filled with thousands of videos I will never remember again, TikTok has made me and my thumb very weary over the past few months.

Two weeks ago, I decided to log out to give my thumbs a break, and so far, it's felt like heaven.

Why I quit

It's not just me: TikTok's audience is no longer growing like it was a few years ago. Business Insider's Alistair Barr posited that young people were growing up and taking on more responsibilities, and TikTok was hindering their productivity.

A supporting statistic is that the app's average monthly users between 18 and 24 declined by nearly 9% in the US from 2022 to 2023, The Wall Street Journal reported recently, citing analytics firm

What was true for me, at least, was that TikTok took hours away from my day. I started thinking about what I could be doing instead: working out, planning future trips, getting better at my hobbies — literally anything else.

However, my addiction may also be a consequence of my job: I report on trends and feel pressure to stay current.

On TikTok, there's been a long-running joke that users of the Zuckerberg-owned TikTok knockoff, Instagram Reels, are always behind on what's cool because whatever you see trending on Reels went out of fashion weeks ago on TikTok.

TikTok videos also frequently drive the discussion on Elon Musk's app X. I learned about this glycine meme after every Gen Z on Earth because I got it from Twitter, not TikTok.

The addicting nature of the app's finely tuned algorithm, analyzed and written about for years, also hooked me. Top Wall Street analysts once compared it to crack cocaine. Although I don't have experience smoking crack, I did find it hard to stay off the app when it was easily accessible.

Before deciding to delete, I spent 1-2 hours a day scrolling through my feed, gleaning so much information about nothing that mattered. Despite being painfully aware that another cute dog video would not materially improve my life, I would keep mindlessly moving on to the next clip.

So, after a particularly aggressive scroll sesh, I decided I had seen the embarrassing reminder asking me to limit my screen time one too many times and unceremoniously relegated TikTok to the app graveyard.

A better work-life balance

Other Gen Z TikTok addicts who spoke to the Journal shared similar concerns.

20-something Keilah Bruce told the Journal she neglected chores like laundry and dishes to scroll on TikTok. Another, Gautam Mengi, a film student, saw his grades freefall, and he couldn't even take out the trash without the app open.

Luckily, it never got that bad for me, but I never had time for hobbies. I told myself I wanted to start working out more, get back to reading more books on my newly purchased Kindle, and add the final stitches to my many unfinished embroidery projects. But TikTok wouldn't let me.

You may expect a dramatic story about me struggling to fill my time and desperately longing to return to TikTok after deleting the app, but that wasn't the case. I only tried to log on once because a friend sent me a post. It helped that I had forgotten my password and didn't feel like retrieving it.

And I would never want to make a new account and retrain the algorithm. It's like getting out of a long-term relationship — what I had with my original algorithm was real, and I couldn't just jump into something new.

TikTok dupes — like Reels or YouTube Shorts — are not satisfactory replacements. I do find myself scrolling through them for a few minutes a day to get that fix, though.

And if I need to look up information on TikTok, like an influencer's contact information, I limit myself to an account I exclusively use on my work laptop.

Now I do fun things, like go outside and touch grass. I even encountered a rattlesnake on a hike last week (not as fun). Doing these things is even more enjoyable than watching them. Who would've thought? But perhaps most importantly, my overall mental health improved: I don't have that post-scroll regret that makes me feel crappy about spending hours of my life I will never get back.

Will I return?

The choice to return to TikTok may be taken from me anyway, as a potential ban looms, but I'm divided on whether I even want to rejoin the app.

TikTok is a wonderful place to find young people doing inspiring things. I love seeing how our generation uses the app to start and maintain small businesses, enact positive social change, and use their voices to speak up about issues affecting marginalized communities. These are the things I like and will continue to write about.

However, it is also full of hate speech and trolls, and I would argue that the comments can be just as toxic as X at times. I've found that avoiding an endless stream of transphobia, fatphobia, and ableism is good for the soul.

So, for now, I'm off the app — at least until I learn some self-control.

TikTok did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

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