A Doctor Claims He Became Addicted to TikTok, and His Family Had to Stage an Intervention
In a new book, a vision doctor-turned-TikTok-influencer details how using the platform consumed his whole life.
Brian Boxer Wachler, prominent vision doctor and TikTok influencer, said the platform took over his life and resulted in a rupture in his family life — and required a formal intervention.
In his new book, Influenced: The Impact of Social Media On Our Perception, which was published in late October by Penguin Random House (an excerpt from which was posted on Insider), Wachler said that what started out as something suggested by his kids turned into something that consumed his life.
"The dopamine craving for more followers gnawed at me to floor the gas pedal like a race car driver," the essay reads. "My daughters had innocently created a TikTok Frankenstein."
Wachler is indeed a popular influencer, with 3.4 million followers on TikTok, and an eye surgeon by trade, who practices in Beverly Hills, California. He posts videos on a wide array of topics, from the so-called Navy Seal sleep hacking technique to menstrual cramps to eye problems.
According to a 2021 press release, he had become a "go-to person to call out what's fake and what's true when it comes to viral health topics" on the platform.
Wachler's TikTok addiction started innocently enough, per the excerpt. His twin daughters said it would be fun if he got on the platform after the pandemic shut down his clinic. Wachler said he wanted to prove he was a "cool dad."
So he created an account, and then applied himself with mathematical precision, figuring out the ideal ratio for likes, views, and shares, on each video until he eventually created a "follower efficiency ratio" which included how many followers a given clip would gain him.
He started spending two to three hours a day making videos, going on the platform's live feature and answering questions, and responding to user comments – and ignoring his family.
"Being an influencer has the potential to be addictive and destructive. Mine is a cautionary tale," Wachler wrote in the excerpt.
"So what if my kids were starting to resent that TikTok was taking up all my mindshare and I was ignoring them — I had much bigger fish to fry," he wrote, i.e., reaching his goal of getting a million followers.
Eventually, Wachler's family staged an intervention, which Wachler ignored, he wrote, until he hit a viral rut with his video views (and thus was struggling to get the same dopamine hits).
Wachler wrote that his story follows the trajectory of that of an addict. He still posts on the platform and says he approaches it from an "entirely different perspective, one that was grounded and healthy."
@brianboxerwachlermd #duet with @mdmotivator it's important to remain grounded while on social media and keep a healthy perspective. sometimes ppl can be influenced in unhealthy ways and have challenges including neglecting relationships with family and friends, school, job etc. my new book INFLUENCED goes into these effects and how to live a balanced life with social media. book also gives tips for those who wish to be influencers on how to do that in a healthy and responsible way #socialmedia ♬ original sound - Zachery Dereniowski
TikTok, in a more colloquial sense, has a highly addictive, personalized algorithm, per Popular Science. A group of state attorneys general is investigating the impact the platform has on young people — just over two-thirds of those ages 13 to 17 say they have used TikTok, per Pew Research Center.
Separately, the platform is facing regulatory issues due to reported holdups in a deal with President Biden's administration for how the Chinese-owned platform might operate in the U.S.
TikTok did not comment directly on Wachler's claims but said it had been working with various entities in the U.S. government "to address all reasonable national security concerns about TikTok in the U.S."
"We believe those concerns can be fully resolved," the statement added. "We have made substantial progress on implementing that solution over the past year, and look forward to completing that work to put these concerns to rest."