Douyin is destroying Chinese millennials and Gen-Z kids
Imagine how angry you’d get when agreeing to meet a friend for afternoon tea, eager to talk face-to-face, only to find that friend more interested in checking her phone, constantly swiping at social media while you are speaking, her finger twitching like a Parkinson’s disease sufferer.
I met such a friend last week, who happens to be a Douyin addict, currently the most popular short-video sharing app in China. Similar to the former American app Musical.ly (which was purchased by Douyin’s owner Jinri Toutiao, a Chinese technology company, in 2017), users can upload and watch selfmade video clips. This year it became the most-downloaded non-game app in the domestic market, surpassing WeChat and Alipay.
According to its manager, Wang Xiaowei, 85 percent of Douyin users are aged under 24. Many attention-deficit millennials and Gen-Z kids have become addicted to Douyin, which unfortunately has led to some unlawful behavior.
In April, a 25-yearold man in East China’s Zhejiang Province filmed himself on Douyin stealing Mercedes-Benz hood ornaments from over 12 cars in one night, South China Morning Post reported.
After getting arrested, the man told police he saw a video clip on Douyin on how to steal a MercedesBenz ornament and wanted to have a try. He thought it was a good way to get more “likes” on Douyin and boost his followers.
Also last month, five men in Nanjing, capital of East China’s Jiangsu Province, harassed a woman in a restaurant by imitating popular Douyin clips titled “how to successfully flirt with a girl.” The men were detained by police, Nanjing-based Modern Express reported.
Many of these “Douyin daily troublemakers” are even hurting their own families, but without any legal consequences.
A father in Central China’s Hubei Province, for instance, was attracted by a Douyin stunt showing a toddler doing a backward somersault in the air while grabbing an adult man’s hands. He copied the video with his 2-year-old daughter, but accidentally dropped her onto the ground, leaving the poor girl’s spine broken, a Hubei TV station reported.
Is Douyin that addictive to everyone? I installed the app after it first became popular, but I quickly grew bored of the poorly made videos, the similar copycat content and the tiresome advertisements. I uninstalled it just a few days later.
There’s nothing wrong with adults who have strong self-control browsing Douyin in their downtime. However, for many juveniles, Douyin is turning them into braindead zombies, robbing them of their attention spans and their interest in other hobbies. Over 30 years ago, famous American media scholar Neil Postman (1931–2003) pointed out the potential harmful influences of TV on children. In his book The Disappearance of Childhood, Postman suggested that, through television, kids no longer need to rely on strong reading and comprehensive abilities to get ahead in life. Instead, Postman worried that the next generation of kids would become obsessed with this new virtual world filled with unhealthy content including drugs, violence and eroticism.
Sadly, even though TV has been replaced by smartphones, nothing really has changed as far as the unhealthy viewing habits of children. Today’s Gen-Z kids use apps like Douyin to watch or create clips featuring naughty pranks, sexy dances and dirty jokes.
It is understandable that “intertainment” apps like Douyin are enjoying great popularity among young Chinese people. But parents should take more responsibility in limiting their kids’ viewing time and closely monitor what they watch and – more importantly – what they upload themselves.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.