Infinite Scrolling Has Defeated Me
I am no match for all the algorithms in place
As I sit here scrolling through my Twitter feed for the hundredth time today, witnessing the chaos, I can't help but feel defeated. I used to pride myself on my ability to stay focused and productive. Still, I constantly get sucked into the vortex of infinite scrolling apps. I pick my phone up for a tame task, and there goes an hour before I realize what just happened. I have been defeated, and infinite scrolling has won my free time.
It started with scrolling through my Instagram feed, then moved on to Instagram and Twitter. Now, I find myself scrolling through Reddit and sometimes even LinkedIn, all in pursuit of that next dopamine hit. I've become a slave to the never-ending feeds of these apps, and it's ruining my life.
At first, I didn't think it was a big deal. After all, I was just checking in on my friends and family, keeping up with the latest news, and occasionally finding funny memes to share with my friends. But as time went on, I spent more and more time on these apps, to the point where I neglected my work, hobbies, and relationships. Sometimes, my screen time would be over 8 hours!
I would sit down to work on a substantial project. Still, before I knew, I was scrolling through my feed for hours, completely lost in an unending sea of memes, videos, and posts from people I will never even get to see or know. Falsely telling myself that I am just taking a quick break from work to return rejuvenated and energized, but before long, that quick break turns into an all-day infinite scrolling session.
These apps took up my valuable mental space even when I wasn't actively scrolling. Be it a meeting or an outing with friends, all I could think about was what I was missing on my feed. I was constantly checking my phone, refreshing my feeds, and missing out on the world around me–the real world. I lost my ability to stay focused and read books for hours and hours at a time. I can't finish ten pages before my brain bugs me to check the phone for a new event to fixate over. Even if I stopped thinking about the apps for a while, my phone asked me to be real on an app while acting as an entry to an endless, imaginary world.
I tried to fight it at first. I tried deleting the apps from my phone, but I would just reload them a few days (sometimes even hours) later. I tried setting limits for myself, but I would always find a way to justify breaking the rules. I tried using apps to block these sites, but I would just see myself going down rabbit holes on other apps instead. One app blocked would mean the other one got its time.
I realize what my problem is. The routine of picking up my phone and scrolling through whatever has been happening worldwide is just too easy. I fall for it more easily than I admit. The muscle memory of trying to open an app is apparent when it's not there, uninstalled, in hopes of curing my Pavlovian response to a notification or my phone buzzing. It is just so easy; the content is right there. Just two taps and you are put in front of an infinite scroll of funny videos–covering intriguing topics, sensational news flashes, idiots worldwide, cats, and much more. Even before I am done watching a video, there's another one ready, waiting for me to give in. Sometimes, they even scroll it for you! Reached the end? No problem! Pull down to refresh and get another Pandora's box of internet content to open. How can you not be enticed by such a system?
The content itself doesn't help, either. It feels like I am part of a passive audience that isn't contributing anything to the content quality. Okay, that human hand was an impressive cake, but what do I have to do with that? Aliens used to visit Earth thousands of years ago? Sure. I gain nothing but lose an hour of my time. I lay on my bed while things happen before me, remembering absolutely no detail of what I had just watched.
The worst part is it's not just me. I see it all around me. There are people like me, constantly on their phones, scrolling through their feeds, and missing out on the world around them. Leisure time is significant to me, and these apps are taking it away. Somehow in the pursuit of staying connected, we have detached ourselves from reality. These apps are designed to keep us hooked. Using algorithms and notifications to keep us coming back for more, these apps constantly feed us new content to keep us scrolling while the best minds of our generation improve their ability to keep us in the loop.
Alright, so what can we do about it? I don't have the answers. If I did, I wouldn't be writing this piece in hopes of connecting to people going through the same. I'm not too fond of the dark pattern most apps and services nowadays have adopted. When you visit a website hoping to see a post or two, a popup will ask you to download an app enabling the grim descent of people like me into the dark abyss of infinite scrolls. Ironically, these popups are precisely what keep me in check because I absolutely despise this pattern. No, I will not download an app because you say so, Muskman. I want to browse Twitter in my browser, and I need your artificial omission of features from the website to persuade me to download your app. I am grateful for companies that do not follow this restrictive pattern.
I may have opened Twitter right after this.