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The End Of Infinite

Like the infinite scroll, every media form keeps chasing the ability to keep us in neverending flow of content.

Seamus Byrne
Seamus Byrne
5 min read
The End Of Infinite

Endings give us space. Endings make room for beginnings.

Endings matter.

But the standard mode now of so many online services and tools is to give us unending streams that feel hard to break out of. The infinite scroll on social media chief amongst them, but many news sites have adopted similar when you reach the bottom of a news story. Why show the bottom of a page when they can show you another exciting story (and earn another pageview)?

The autoplay on streaming services is one that I have enjoyed in many contexts, but now I’m trending toward turning it off where I can. Largely because it’s become overzealous, allowing just a few seconds after the final moment of action in a TV show or movie, scrolling rapidly across a countdown that leaves us leaping for the remote to stop it from skipping ahead.

With TV shows, this ‘autoscroll’ removes that moment to soak in what you just saw, to chat about what we liked or didn’t like about it, or to just decide we’ve finished without feeling like the streaming services has now already marked the next episode as started.

The worst on this front is when the final episode of an entire TV show gets autoblasted into oblivion by a trailer for some other show we had no interest in seeing.

The end of a season of a show, or especially the end of an entire series, should have room for a sacred moment! Like the end of a novel, you need some moments to reflect on what you’ve just enjoyed. You don’t want to have to leap to action to defend your access to this space in between.

But when every single content object is treated as simply a link to the next content object, it’s time to pull back some control.

Instagram has actually done better than most with its “You’re all caught up” feature. With its default presentation that no longer runs chronologically, it’s hard to know if you’ve seen all the latest posts from the people you follow. Reaching this message means you now know you can stop. Of course, many people might type in a search or find some other angle to explore within Instagram. But the service has given you a clear line in the digital sand: “You have seen everything there is to see in your standard feed, now make a choice about what you want to do next with your life.”

But now Instagram is adding ‘suggested posts’ to keep you scrolling after you’ve hit that end point. I’m sure it will work for many people. But c'mon… give us a break…

I get it. I’m probably an edge case. But I’m sure many people know they could use a little more time to pause to consider if they want to load another page of social posts, or to choose what they watch next and not just binge ever onward.

Options are the key. Fine, keep your defaults, just give us more controls we can go mess around with in the settings menu. Let us set a count on how many auto things we get before we are asked to load more. Let us say the end of a series should be treated as a hard stop versus the typical end of an episode. Let us decide we want chronology instead of algorithmic feeds (thanks Twitter).

Just let us decide.

@ Byteside

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MediaArt & Culture

Seamus Byrne Twitter

Founder and Head of Content at Byteside.

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