Sep 16, 2020

Why I don't want to infinite scroll?


 In the book "Hooked", Nir Eyal talks about the "Hook" framework for building habit-forming products. One of the components of the Hook framework is Variable rewards.

When a person gets engaged with a product, variable rewards keep him/her hooked onto the experience, like that of a slot machine. You never know what you might expect. So you continue to engage and get different rewards - new content, new images, new gossip etc.

All our news feeds and social media feeds are classic drivers of this behavior, with the promise of variable rewards.

These variable rewards are enabled by what is called an "infinite scroll" feature, a powerful one that can keep you hooked onto a product/app for more time than you can imagine.

In my journey of mindful content consumption, I have become extremely wary of products that have this infinite scroll feature.

Email - no infinite scroll but there is a variable reward. You never know what email you are gonna get but still relatively okay.

Instagram - keeping my following count to 60, so the number of posts I get in a day is minimal. BUT the Explore option has an Infinite Scroll and I consciously avoid using it. I don't have the Instagram app on my phone, so I don't get into this Explore mode.

FB and Twitter - deactivated and bid goodbye. These are platforms designed for variable rewards and infinite scroll. Not planning to waste any more time and mental energy on them.

Youtube - though I have reduced my channel subscriptions count drastically, I still end up scrolling through the Recommendations section now and then. I need to stop this behavior or figure out a way to disable it on my phone. In the documentary, "The social dilemma", the person who wrote the Youtube recommendations algorithm recommends a browser extension to disable Youtube recommendations. What an irony!

The other often overlooked service, where I end up succumbing to infinite scroll, is Google search. No, I'm not referring to Search as an activity. On Android, there is a Discover option in the Search app where news articles are listed depending on your search patterns. I realized that I do scroll and absorb news content from here, spending a significant amount of time. 


I have disabled this option this morning and as I was browsing through Settings, the topics of interest that Google collects about me are displayed. Not surprised or shocked, seeing this list, as I'm quite aware of why personalization is a big value prop in the software world.

I don't want to consume more information than needed, even though it might be personalized to my interests. When I want any info, I'll search and explore it by myself, when I'm ready for it.

Infinite scroll is a vicious loop and a time drain. Let's be aware of products that have infinite scroll enabled and devise ways to be in control of our attention.

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