Do we pick our favorite social media apps, or do they pick us?


Photo by Sophia Fritsch

Senior Annika Chapman uses Tiktok during a break in class.

If you’re walking through the halls during passing periods, how many people can you count on their phones? It is a seemingly impossible task as practically everyone is looking at a screen or has a phone in their hand. 

According to the Pew Research center, 96% of 18 to 29-year-olds owned a smartphone in 2021. This age group has the highest percentage of smartphone users. So naturally, smartphone apps are designed to target this group of users. Social media apps, for example, all share similar ideas. 

You may notice that lately, most of the social media apps on your phone are starting to have the same features. In addition to that, the information being presented to you on social media apps may even be starting to look similar as well. This phenomenon is due to algorithms built to monitor your interactions and feed your interests. 

The Business of Apps website recorded the top 10 most downloaded apps of 2021 worldwide. Seven out of the top 10 were social media apps, and the most downloaded app was TikTok, with 656 million downloads. Instagram followed with 545 million downloads. TikTok also has 60% of its users fall within the 16-24 age range. 

TikTok’s fame and popularity can be attributed to its addictive features. The app presents shortened videos in an endless supply with repetitive sounds and visuals to keep users entertained. The app is hyper-personalized to the user and only displays trends or content that the user would enjoy or find interesting. The app is so immersive that users can spend hours on the app without feeling like any time has gone by. Senior Vanessa Rubin attributes most of her screen time to TikTok. “It’s definitely my favorite app – I’m addicted. When I’m on it, I’ll think it’s only been 10 minutes, but then I check the time, and it’s actually been an hour.” Rubin said. 

Junior Wes Greenberg has had TikTok since ninth grade and says it is his favorite app on his phone. “There are funny videos that are short enough to keep the app interesting,” Greenberg said.

Senior Gabby Wright has had TikTok deleted from her phone for over a year since she found that she was spending too much time on the app. “I was totally addicted to it, and it would suck me in for hours at a time. I knew if I kept it, I would never get anything done again.” Wright said. 

Wright eventually had to sacrifice this app that had brought so much enjoyment because it was impacting her ability to focus and prioritize. This brings up the question of whether or not the favorite social media app on our phone is chosen by us. Teenagers may think they control their screen time, but if social media apps are designed to manipulate our perception of time and enjoyment, they may not be.