"The intoxication a person feels from the combination of dopamine and adrenaline that's released when their posts go viral is unbelievable," shared Yamalis Diaz, NYU Langone Health psychologist. She revealed, "Neurologically, that high is like a drug."
TikTok is an app launched in 2016 by the Chinese technology company BytDance. The [quick] video sharing platform easily became one of the most, if not the most, influential social media platforms following its launch in America. It made its way to the top of the charts, becoming the most downloaded app, surpassing Facebook and Instagram.
Rising To Or Drowning In Fame?
The pandemic stopped our lives in their tracks and disconnected us from all forms of a physical connection. Our only way of receiving social interaction was through the little black mirror in our hands and the apps that lived inside it.
For those of you who like to compare, yes, you're right; technology like this was amazing for keeping in touch with close family and friends (unlike what was possible during the flu epidemic). However, like everything in life, too much of one thing is never good. And, with nothing to do during a worldwide lockdown, especially for the younger kids, social media (TikTok specifically) became the main outlet for connection.
It can be argued that TikTok's fame is due to its ability to give fame to its users but, let's be honest, who doesn't just love to scroll through back-to-back adorable and funny videos of dogs? And, although talking about dogs right now would be awesome, let's circle back to TikTok's ability to change the lives of its users.
A lot of lives in America have been affected by the very famous social media app. So much in fact that it was in danger of being banned in the United States by then President Donald Trump.
For some, TikTok put a positive spin on people's lives, catapulting them to fame. Stars like the D'Amelio sisters and Addison Rae landed major brand deals and even made their way from a phone screen to the TV screen, appearing in movies and shows.
Other users on the app drowned in the addiction of the high that came from going viral, pushing them to fatal limits just for content.
Regardless of where the fame took them, however, users have revealed facing severe if not mortal mental health struggles after being overwhelmed by the attention, Charlie D'Amelio, Dixie D'Amelio included.
Scrolling Past The Negative Comments
Remember when we mentioned that TikTok changed people's lives? Well, for one set of sisters, it REALLY changed a lot. The D'Amelio sisters blew up on TikTok and later on got their own reality show of their entire family on Hulu. The series gives fans an inside look at their every day lives and even tapped into the mental health struggles of the young sisters after quickly rising to fame.
“I think it was important because I knew I wasn’t going to be in that moment forever. I knew everything was eventually going to be better. Even if I couldn’t see when or how I wanted to show my personal growth. I wanted to show literally the bottom of the bottom of how I’m feeling and just me knowing that it was just going to get better, really pushed me to have that filmed and have that shown to people," Dixie shared with Us Weekly.
She continued, “And now watching it, I realized how much I’ve grown in the past couple of months and how the negative comments don’t even affect me even if I can, I can read a hundred of them and I’m just like, ‘Oh, that’s fine.’ It’s a hundred comments out of the 50 million people who support me. A few comments saying some mean things won’t bother me.”
Charlie, 17, also opened up to Us Weekly about her efforts to ignore the negative things said online. “It’s obviously inevitable [to see negative comments],” she shared. “I’m not going to leave all the people that care about me behind just because I don’t want to look at the negative comments. I look at both of them. I try not to let the negative ones get to me, and I only respond now to the positive ones because I would rather draw more attention to positivity and, and let the people that leave me negative comments know that they’re not going to get a response, you know?”
However, there's nothing like having family during dark times to guide you to the light at the end of the tunnel. The sisters expressed their appreciation for the bond that 'fame' has given them, explaining that it "isn't always the easiest to navigate." They left off with saying, “We are consistently there for each other and always supporting each other, on-camera and off. Our parents play a big role in making sure that we stay grounded and keep us feeling like normal teenagers.”
The Fatal Effects Of [Social Media] Fame
Yamalis Diaz explained to The Post, “TikTok and other platforms are constantly raising the bar on what it takes to be widely noticed — and what it takes to sustain that top-ranking status. And unless the apps become more proactive about immediately banning dangerous trends, young people will continue putting themselves at risk by doing these catastrophic stunts in the hopes to gain views and followers.”
Users of the app began taking stunts to dangerous extremes (more dangerous than Jacka**), which unfortunately ended in them taking their own lives, just for content.
Timothy Isaiah Hall, known as @TimboTheRedneck, with 273,000 followers, died on July 31 while attempting a "fishtailing stunt to get likes from his online audience. Hall propelled out of the driver's side window of his GMC truck. The 4,000-pound-plus pickup toppled on its side and onto Hall's body, crushing his organs.
His mom told The Post, “If I would have known about some of the dangerous things he was doing in his TikTok videos, as his mother, I would have stopped him and he’d still be here with me."
“My son loved TikTok, and always wanted to make the best videos for his fans,” Hall's mother told The Post of her late son, "But he took his love for being popular on the app too far. And now he’s gone forever and my heart is broken. It will always be broken.”
- Chloe Phillips who was just 15 years old, died of a heart attack in August 2020 after attempting the Benadryl Challenge. A trend on TikTok in which the goal is to film oneself hallucinating from the medication.
- Joshua Haileyesus was found unconscious by his twin brother in bathroom of their home. The 12-year-old was attempting TikTok's Blackout Challenge which requires the person to hold their breath until passing out. Haileyesus was pronounced brain dead and died after 19 days on life support.
Suicide has become another result of the quick rise to fame that TikTok brings. And, those who did choose to take their life were typically the users who were heavily idolized with millions of followers.
At just 18 years old, TikTok star Dazharia Shaffer tragically died. The young social media star had 1.7 million followers on TikTok and had over 200,000 on Instagram. Although her cause of death wasn't revealed, a statement from her father implies that it was suicide.
On a GoFundMe page about her death he wrote, "She was so happy, and would be so excited to see me when I come home from being on the road. I only wish she would have spoken to me about her stress and the thoughts of suicide. We could work thru [sic] this."
Another star of the app was a young creator, Siya Kakkar. At 16 years she felt the intense pressures of the internet and reportedly died by suicide. She had over 1.1 million followers on the app which, to some, sounds like a dream, but in reality, are a lot of eyes on you at once, creating a lot of internal pressure.
Her manager, Arjun Sarin, told India Today that her death was "due to something personal." Sarin continued, "I had a word with her last night for a new project and she sounded normal. Siya was a bright talent. I am heading to her home in Preet Vihar."
The most recent death that shook users of the app was the one of Cooper Noriega. Noriega was found dead in a Los Angeles parking lot just hours after posting a video about the possibility of dying young. The 19-year-old had about 2 million followers and was adored by many for his charming videos.
His body was found in the parking lot of a mall in LA where authorities attempted to resuscitate him but were unsuccessful. No cause of death has been reported however, foul play was not suspected.
Growing up and coming into ourselves is overwhelming as it is. Trying to find your place in the little world that you reside in as a teen (school, sports, friend groups, etc.) is challenging. It forces introspection and self-awareness - things that we typically don't learn how to get a full grasp on until later in life.
Now, think back to that time of your life and imagine having to go through it with an additional world in the palm of your hands that exposes you to EVERYTHING beyond the radius of what you know.
The pressures of social media are real and should not be overlooked. Young people are being exposed to unattainable perfection and faulty version of happiness, minimizing their ability to be content in their own lives.
We send our prayers to the families and friends who have lost someone close to them after being overwhelmed or addicted to the 'high' of social media fame.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).