- Ask Reddit TikTok videos have exploded in popularity — despite being much longer than typical TikToks.
- Their popularity comes as people’s attention spans are shorter than ever.
- The videos follow a similar formula that one psychologist said provides a potent dopamine hit.
If you’re extremely online and constantly scrolling through TikTok, you’ve probably come across a video like this: Think video game recording in the background, a text-to-speech voiceover, and a question you just have to know the answer to.
Reddit has come to TikTok — and they offer a potent alternative to the platform’s typical seconds-long format.
For proof of their popularity, you only need to look at the hashtag #askreddit, which has over 10 billion views. There are hundreds of accounts devoted to transforming Reddit threads and questions into digestible bite-sized videos. Reddit’s official TikTok account, which launched in June, has 369,000 followers, while some unverified accounts, including askthereddit and redditrevealed, have millions.
Regardless of the account, the videos all share a similar format and are typically culled from anonymous questions Reddit users ask on the platform. They start with a simple question, like “What’s the biggest plot twist you’ve seen in real life?” or “what’s a lifesaving tip everyone should know?” The TikTok video will then voiceover the answers with a video game recording playing in the background. More often than not, the stories are full of juicy details and twists and turns.
And they’re anonymous. It’s the anonymity that helps people feel comfortable confessing their deepest secrets. “Because of our pseudonymous model, people can be their true selves here and share their unfiltered experiences, thoughts, opinions, questions, etc. that resonate with others around the world,” a Reddit spokesperson told Insider.
People gravitate toward the storytelling content, says Aditi Paul, Ph.D., a communications strategist and tech and relationship expert, because it allows TikTok users to indulge in each other’s “messy, authentic, goofy, imperfect selves,” she told Insider.
Because the videos tend to be more detailed, they’re also longer than your typical TikTok video and typically run between 90 seconds and 3 minutes.
That’s still pretty short, but it’s relatively lengthy compared to the average TikTok clip — which is 21 to 34 seconds long — and the average attention span. According to a 2015 study by Microsoft, the human attention span is just eight seconds.
Ask Reddit videos are successful despite TikTokers’ preference for shorter clips
As Wired reported this past February, TikTok’s own internal survey data revealed that nearly 50% of TikTok users found videos longer than a minute stressful to watch. However, the app is still investing in long-form video content (they’ve even tested 10-minute videos among beta testers). TikTok’s goal for long-form videos, according to WIRED, is to invest in more ads and grow its revenue.
So are Reddit storytelling videos doing TikTok a favor and expanding the user’s attention spans?
Licensed clinical neuropsychologist Jennifer Wolkin, Ph.D., believes that the first-person video game recordings in the background play a huge part in why those videos are so popular.
“Movement is known to capture attention, so perhaps they are playing to that. It gets a bit complex as some research says it’s motion that captures attention, and some say [it’s] the appearance of a new perceptual object. It’s not necessarily visual motion that’s salient, it’s the onset of visual motion that really catches someone’s attention. I think the Reddit videos do a really good job of catering to this,” she told Insider.
These videos work, said Wave Wyld, a Toronto-based TikTok marketing and trends expert, because they “start with a question that sparks curiosity, such as ‘What’s your most shameful NSFW moment?’ This immediately gets the viewer interested and wanting to hear more,” she told Insider. Since the videos have a similar “formula,” users are able to recognize the type of video they’re about to watch. “[These videos] have a distinctive format and style, so when a user is scrolling and stumbles upon them, they notice and say to themselves, ‘Oh, this is a Reddit story, I like these videos, I will watch it,’” Wyld added.
From a neuropsychological point of view, the fact that these videos follow a similar format and style could also be why they’re so popular. Their familiarity, said Wolkin, feeds our need for dopamine. “It’s the neurotransmitter associated with reward and pleasure. It’s something we seek out as humans, and each time we scroll and see something that resonates with us, we are getting a hit of it.”