Infinite scroll is a lot more than just a simple UX design decision

I recently read a tweet about how infinite scroll is one of the most damaging design decisions to the human brain, and while I found it hyperbolic, I decided to look more into it anyway. It turns out that an innocent experiment done years ago by a single designer, meant to simplify the online browsing experience, ended up becoming a product norm sucking away the time of millions:

One of my lessons from infinite scroll: that optimizing something for ease-of-use does not mean best for the user or humanity.

— Aza Raskin (@aza) June 11, 2019

There are a lot of ways infinite scroll exploits the brain.

  1. Users can’t tell how much content they have consumed (while the old pagination standard used to do exactly that)
  2. It uses the unit bias, which is a preference our brains for completing 1 unit of something - but that’s impossible to do with infinite scroll, because the unit never ends
  3. It appeals to our desire for predictability and patterns

Platforms like Tiktok, which literally have no feature other than a single infinitely scrolling feed, are so addictive precisely for this reason - not only does it make full use of this feature, but it also has the engineering chops to load new videos blazingly fast, so the next dopamine hit is in your lap before your brain has a chance to catch up.

I think the first step to being more mindful about social media addiction tends to be awareness of the strategies used to hook you in, so I found this pretty interesting. Here’s the rest of the read: