“We crave some sense of closure, some sense of being done,” says Tim Wu, a Columbia law professor and author of The Attention Merchants. “Much of social media tries to prevent you from ever having that feeling.”
Social media sites, in particular, are designed to create what he calls “false loops,” where you never reach the end of what you can do on the platform. He thinks that goes against our way of making sense of the world: Humans have a natural predilection toward creating experiences and narratives that start and end, like the social ritual of eating dinner with a friend, or attending a concert, or even reading an article. But social media tends to disrupt these things–unlike a well-planned story or meal, Wu compares experiencing social media to a buffet, where nothing really goes together. Coincidentally, you also end up stuffing yourself and feeling ill.
“Our brains like to close things out,” Wu says. “I think that a lot of design now is trying to turn all of us into obsessive-compulsives by making it so the loops are never closed.” Film and TV offer a compelling parallel. “How do you feel after going to see a really great movie, as opposed to channel surfing for three hours?” he says. “It’s a complete difference. One has a beginning, middle, and an end, versus you saw half of 10 shows and kind of got into something that didn’t develop all the way through.”
Katharine Schwab writing in Fast Company