In the war for your attention, products try and reduce ‘friction’ to encourage you to consume more. By removing any conscious action on your part to uncover the next piece of content, they have an easier time holding on to your attention.
Autoplay content is a great example of ‘removing friction.’ When you finish watching a video on YouTube, a show on Netflix or viewing someone’s story on Instagram, you are automatically shown another video, show or story. The default option is that you keep watching, even if you only ever intended to consume one specific thing.
There’s nothing wrong with watching another piece of content, but you should try and make a conscious decision about whether you’d like to, rather than have the software (which has a vested interest) make that decision for you.
How to respond?
Take back the power and make the decision yourself. Prevent YouTube autoplaying, prevent Netflix from playing the next episode automatically and use browsers that prevent videos from autoplaying on websites.
Infinite scrolling provides a never-ending stream of content – it’s a technique used by Facebook’s news feed and Instagram’s photo feed. It reduces friction by removing pagination, all you have to do is keep scrolling and there will be more content for you to discover. There’s no ‘bottom of the page’ for you to get to and think about whether you want to keep giving the service your attention.
It’s a common sight now to see people in public scrolling endlessly on their smart phones or tablets. You have to wonder how many of them opened a notification to see just one thing, or thought they’d quickly check their app before getting sucked into a vortex. This is no accident, it’s designed this way for a reason.
When you keep scrolling, not only are you loading more content, you’re loading more advertisements. Looking very similar to native content, both Facebook and Instagram are masters of placing paid advertisements into their feeds – they are monetizing your attention.
How to respond?
As far as I know there are no easy ways to disable infinite scrolling on commonly used platforms. I’ve found the best thing to do is timeblock your use – set a timer or use an app like Moment to monitor your use and once that time is up, exit the app and move onto something else.