Makieda Mckenzie was As she scrolled through TikTok, she realized for the first time: people in the internet age are like sharks. Not in the colloquial sense that we would call a particularly smart colleague in the corporate world a shark, but much more literally. Our attention is caught by bright colors, iridescence and beating. And everyone feels that they have to keep swimming.
What inspired Mckenzie to think so wasn’t a TikTok video about sharks, or even an attention span analysis reel. Instead, it was a three-minute clip by Greta Gerwig little woman Presented side-by-side with a screen capture of a content creator rolling various glass bottles down a flight of stairs to see which would break the quickest.
“When I saw it, I could literally feel the dopamine rush,” says Mckenzie. “I was like, ‘Oh wow, bright colors and flashing lights!’ I was hooked by the light reflected from the broken bottles.”
As a college student, Mckenzie is a self-proclaimed “expert at multitasking” who switches back and forth between various YouTube videos in the library while working on math problem sets. She likes multiple forms of stimulation. These so-called dual videos offer “something my brain can push into the background while I take in other information.”
Dual videos, which are gaining popularity on TikTok this summer, generally feature a clip from a movie or show alongside a repetitive action like rolling bottles or a task like baking or squeezing metal. Mckenzie is by no means alone in her fascination with her. Another student, Aidan LeBlanc, finds that dual stimulation is his perfect pace. “Usually it’s the colors or the boldness of these videos that draw me in first,” he says. “It’s like a supplement for my brain to stay stimulated while watching an influencer’s apology video or a clip from a documentary or whatever.”
According to Gloria Mark, author of Attention Span: A Breakthrough Way to Restore Balance, Happiness, and ProductivityLeBlanc and Mckenzie’s media consumption habits mirror those of other young people who grew up with the Internet. “It’s a cultural indoctrination to get used to, and even prefer, these types of highly stimulating, rapid scene changes, and as a result it’s becoming increasingly difficult for young people to focus on something that’s moving slower or even longer of text,” says Mark. “So many forces are coming together that just cause people, especially young people, to have short attention spans.”
Even though the dual-video trend took off on TikTok, it originated from a far more traditional source: Hollywood.
“With blockbuster movies these days, there’s something new on screen about every two seconds,” says Mark. “And people get used to it, don’t they? It’s hard for people to pay attention to a full shot where the visual information doesn’t change. It is boring.”
The popularity of the videos is only due to TikTok doing what it does best: using its algorithm to scroll users through more clips like the one you’re currently watching. Even if some duplicate videos are removed for copyright infringement for the movies or shows featured in them, others that combine a secondary incentive with ordinary TikTok content can still rake in more 17 million views a bang.