Why captions are popping on TikTok: ‘glasses for your ears’

“Our attention spans are so short now that I feel like closed captioning, and putting the captions up on the screen if closed captioning isn’t an option, is so crucial,” said McKay, 21, who lives in Portland, Ore.

A video app known primarily as a place to watch dances and lip-syncs set to popular songs, TikTok has emerged as an unlikely forum for text in the form of its increasingly ubiquitous captions.

Paula Winke, a Michigan State University linguistics professor who has researched the educational benefits of captioning, described captions as “Glasses for your ears” that can make it easier to parse dialogue.