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The “Infinite Scroll” Feature has Changed the Way the World Consumes Social Media—and Porn

By June 26, 2020 No Comments

The way porn is consumed today is unlike anything the world has experienced before.

As an anti-porn and pro-love organization, we address a range of issues related to porn—from categories on porn sites that are extremely problematic, to recent news of increased sex trafficking and sexual exploitation crimes during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, while we typically discuss the harms associated with the content itself, when it comes to porn nowadays, it’s not just about the what, it’s about the how.

What do we mean?

It may be long-forgotten, but consuming porn hasn’t always been the way it is today. You don’t have to go back too far: in the pre-internet days, accessing porn was much more of a challenge—because of time, availability, and lack of anonymity.

Related: What Most Parents Don’t Know About How Porn Shapes Their Teens’ Sexual Expectations

Get this: until the 70’s, the idea of “privacy” while watching porn didn’t even exist. [1] Skip to today, where porn is consumed quickly, privately, anonymously, and for free. The amazing tech advancements of today—not limited to the internet, smartphones, and “tube” sites—has been leveraged by the porn industry to create an addictive product.

Tech has introduced changes to the way porn is consumed which makes its consumption more problematic for the average consumer. Introducing the problem of being able to endlessly scroll through porn sites.

Give One For Love

Ever heard of “infinite scrolling?”

If you haven’t heard of “infinite scrolling,” odds are, you’ve experienced it.

When was the last time you were on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, TikTok, or Pinterest? Now think about when you’ve had to hit a button to load more content.

Exactly. You don’t have to.

The content just keeps loading, a continual stream of content in which you never reach the end. It’s like entering a digital black hole—once you go in, you lose track of time in a mindless repetition of thumb swipes.

Related: How This Microsoft Project Is Helping To Fight Online Child Exploitation

The issue with the “infinite scroll” feature is that it is designed to get you hooked. Users stay on the site longer, and this is intentional—more screen time equals more profit for the company. It’s an alternative to including “stopping cues” which could be something like a “load more” button you have to click to continue viewing content.

In the words of product designer and writer Joshua Porter, “scrolling is a continuation, clicking is a decision.” Once the decision-making component is removed, consumers are kept in a constant limbo of exploration and discovery until, before they know it, they’ve spent much longer than expected or desired scrolling through an endless feed.

This is no minor issue: it was called to be banned from sites in a bill introduced less than a year ago.

So what’s all this got to do with porn? We’re glad you asked.

Brain Heart World

The problem of porn and the “infinite scroll”

Many major porn sites make use of an infinite scroll feature to keep consumers constantly engaged, constantly on the site, constantly looking for new content. And with no shortage of content on many porn sites, like the mindblowing 169 years worth of just new content added to Pornhub last year, an infinite scroll really can be “infinite.”

While much of the criticism for infinite scrolling is directed at the social media giants, the criticism for such “habit-forming” features can also be applied to the porn industry’s use. They share a similar goal: keep consumers consuming

According to Aza Raskin, the actual engineer and designer of the “infinite scroll” feature, “If you don’t give your brain time to catch up with your impulses you just keep scrolling.”

Related: Why There’s Been A 106% Increase In Child Sexual Exploitation Reports During The Pandemic

As Tristan Harris, former Google design ethicist put it,  “So if I take the bottom out of this glass and I keep refilling the water or the wine, you won’t know when to stop drinking. Which means…odds are, you’d keep drinking.”

The porn industry profits off of consumers’ base instincts and impulses through its content, but also through features like this to keep consumers floating in a sea of degrading, unrealistic content without realization they’ve drifted far from the metaphorical shore of “reality.”

So what do you get when you add this infinite scroll to the fact that porn consumption is a naturally escalating behavior, creating a tendency to gradually choose more extreme content over time? A recipe for some of the most compulsive-forming content on the internet.

Fortify

Porn sites thrive even without “infinite scroll” features

The infinite scroll is just one feature porn sites are using to keep their customers revisiting their site as often and long as possible. The other features that keep consumers returning for more content include offering the most shocking, hardcore content one can imagine, and for free.

You can scroll all day on Netflix, Twitter, and other social media platforms, and while each has its own problems and may not be the most productive use of your time, it won’t misinform you about what healthy sex is like quite like porn can.

Related: How Porn & Technology Might Be Replacing Sex For Japanese Millennials

The reality is, while consumers absentmindedly scroll through endless videos of unrealistic hardcore sex, they’re simultaneously curating a very specific sexual template. Based on the violence, objectification, sexual abuse, and sexism that fill entire categories of porn sites, consumers might understand some of the mechanics of sex, but not have a very healthy overall of sexuality if porn is their primary sex educator.

Of course, porn sites do just fine even without the infinite scroll option. But its addition to most porn sites adds gasoline to an already-raging fire that is the regular consumption of porn by millions of people around the world.

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