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Nordic News

The student news site of Inglemoor High School

Nordic News

The student news site of Inglemoor High School

Nordic News

Stuck scrolling? Short-form media is the perpetrator


The advancement of social media in the 21st century has changed the way people communicate and connect, making video-sharing and new trends more accessible than ever. In particular, short-form media has exploded with popularity on many social media platforms, ranging from Instagram Reels to YouTube Shorts to TikTok. The usage of short-form media has not been limited to social media companies. Last December, Amazon launched Inspire, a scrolling-based shopping feed that allows certain users to advertise Amazon products through brief videos or photos in exchange for commission.

Any content under 60 seconds is considered short-form media. But while some people argue that social media has brought much positivity to the world by uniting entire communities around common interests, it is also dangerously addictive to consumers. The addictiveness of short-form media, fueled by factors such as dopamine and video algorithms, is harmful to the well-being of viewers. 

Short-form videos release dopamine in the brain, which hooks teens and encourages users to keep scrolling. Dopamine makes people feel like they are being rewarded, causing them to repeat the action to receive more dopamine. Short-form videos also captivate viewers through random reinforcement. Random reinforcement, also known as Skinner’s reinforcement theory, is the misguided belief that a viewer will eventually find an entertaining video if they just keep scrolling. The combination of dopamine and random reinforcement is the main driving force that make short-form videos addictive, especially for adolescents, whose brains have not yet fully developed. Many social media companies take advantage of these effects to optimize profit, usually without regard to the health of the addicted consumer.

Since the pandemic, there has been a steep increase in the consumption of short-form media, with the most prominent being TikTok. A Common Sense study conducted in September 2023 found that out of 203 11- to 17-year-olds, 50% used TikTok for a median of 1 hour and 52 minutes a day. The fact that social media leads to many detrimental issues is largely ignored. The increasing prevalence of short-form media has an impact on the way our minds are wired, affecting our attention span, irritability and dependence on our devices. These side effects are increasingly problematic, especially in school settings where students need to maintain long periods of focus. Conditioned to have shorter attention spans, students may become more irritable, sparking conflicts in school and interrupting learning for those around them.

Media companies are not solely responsible for such troubling developments. Creators use short-form media to pump out as many videos as possible to reach more viewers, which usually leads to a decline in content quality and controversial titles to garner attention. Instead of enriching the minds of viewers, short-form media encourages creators to pollute the web with clickbait and potentially harmful ideas.

Fortunately, there are ways to combat addiction to short-form media. In October, 42 states sued Meta claiming that its apps — FaceBook and Instagram — are harmful and addictive to youth. Other platforms, including Google and TikTok, have been sued for similar reasons.

For the sake of consumers, social media companies need to be held more responsible for their apps. Most social media apps already have some form of regulation on their short-form media. TikTok has a restricted mode, which limits what viewers can see when scrolling online, blocking out mature or inappropriate content. And similar to Instagram, TikTok has daily screen time management, which can be set up by users and notifies them whenever they have spent a certain amount of time on the app.

However, these measures are still not enough to effectively battle against short-form media addiction. If users find themselves doomscrolling or flipping through videos too quickly, social media companies should implement policies that will keep the user from accessing the app for a short time period, such as 10 to 15 minutes, in order to encourage them to take their eyes off the screen. There should also be stricter regulations on the short-form media content allowed on the apps without needing to activate restricted modes or anything similar.

There are many possible changes that companies have the power to make, but at the end of the day, it is also important to note that companies exist to profit. Prompting users to have healthier relationships with short-form media negatively impacts revenue streams for companies and drives away company investors, making it unfeasible for most companies.

Despite this, hope can still be found in the small yet constant changes made by both companies and consumers, and viewers can start to realize the impact of short-form media and prevent themselves from being pulled in any further. Short-form media has sunk its addictive claws into the minds of many adolescents, but with the continued reform of social media companies and the growing awareness of teenagers, such addiction can be combated and eliminated once and for all.

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About the Contributors
Amy Zhao (she/her)
Amy Zhao (she/her), Reporter
Sophomore Amy Zhao is the author of several books and graphic novels, including 16 Psyche and Invasion of the Aliens. She is very excited to be on the Nordic team and is passionate about cultivating creativity, expressing important messages, and sharing helpful tips through her writing. At school, Amy is involved in Honor Society and is the Sophomore Class Representative executive for DECA. When she is not writing, she can be found searching for the best bubble tea on the planet or drowning in her collection of plushies.
Camille Pierce (she/her)
Camille Pierce (she/her), Co-Copy Editor
Junior Camille Pierce is one of the copy editors for the 2023-24 school year. During her second year on staff, she hopes to further develop her writing and photography skills and write unique stories that represent the Inglemoor community. Outside of Nordic, she is part of various clubs (join SARA!) and Inglemoor’s swim and dive team. In her slowly-disappearing free time, she likes to make very long to-do lists, go on picnics with her friends and gush about her two (very cute) cats.

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