Now, think back 20 years to how you scrolled through the television guide from your cable provider, or 40 years to when you scrolled through channel by channel to see what was on, searching endlessly for something to watch (although only with three to four, or 20-30 stations to choose from back then). Seem familiar now?
Social media video is the natural outcome of years of evolutionary design. The creators of the news feed knew that scrolling endlessly is the human pastime, and now our kids are even more addicted to it than we were. In our day, you would eventually get bored of the scroll because there was finite content to choose from. Not so for our kids. The scroll is as endless as time itself, and I swear these kids are trying to work their way to the end of it, filing every empty, waking minute with a constant barrage of mindless video content.
Social media has a responsibility as gatekeepers of the content in the same way we do as parents. In fact, I wish I could convince social media companies to partner with parents and install one small thing: a reminder to video platforms that after users spend a certain amount of time scrolling, you insert a “maybe it’s time to do something else” screen.
I implement screentime restrictions, and my kids come up with workarounds. I put constraints on their devices, and they find workarounds. Social media gets blamed for a lot, but you could win points if we could count on you to help us by simply reminding these kids under 18 years of age there are things going on around them, and they should look up!
My health app reminds me when I should stand and walk around. My nutrition app reminds me what I should eat to be happy and healthy. We are creating a Pavlovian society that reminds us consistently of what we should be doing, so maybe social media could help our kids as well?
I’m not saying video is bad. I love it, too! But we’ve created a system that exploits our natural human instinct for scrolling.
The creation of scrolling feeds ranks with the button for one-touch buying that Amazon created as the most ingenious and yet devious creations of the last hundred years. Amazon’s button made ecommerce an impulse buy for almost everything, and scrolling gives us what we crave: an endless stream of content.
Maybe we can prove our intellectual superiority as a species by working together to curb our scrolling addictions, and finding a way to move on to the outside world?