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The Campanile

The Campanile

Social media algorithms cause doomscrolling

Art by Samanvika Senthil Kumar

As the teacher announces a class break, senior Max Yeh stands up to get a stretch. Looking around, he notices phones lighting up across the room, with apps ranging from Messages to Instagram to SnapChat.

In a study done by Common Sense Media in 2021, the average teenager spends eight hours 39 minutes each day staring at screens. And according to a Campanile Schoology survey of 20 students, on average, these students spend over 4.5 hours per weekday and over 5.5 hours a day on the weekends on their phone.

In today’s heightened digital age, screens are an integral part of many peoples’ daily lives. From cell phones to Smart Boards to Teslas, screens have improved communication and increased access to information.

According to The Campanile survey, students use their phones mainly for messaging friends and scrolling through social media apps. Senior Kai Silverberg Shirota said these apps, such as Instagram, are addictive and time consuming.

“Quite often, I’ll willingly neglect my homework and scroll on Instagram reels,” Silverberg Shirota said. “Sometimes it’s impossible for me to put my phone down.”

Silverberg Shirota also said scrolling is now a habit for him, and he often doesn’t even realize when he is doing it.

“Sometimes I forget about my work, and I just keep scrolling for like a good half an hour or so before snapping out of it,” Silverberg Shirota said.

Yeh agreed and said he often has trouble setting his phone down once he begins scrolling. Yeh said sometimes, due to the addictive nature of social media, his phone screen time can reach up to eight hours a day, over double his typical daily average.

“When I was working on my college application last night, I took a 30 minute break and began scrolling,” Yeh said. “I told myself that I’ll resume working in 35 minutes. I hit 36, and then I was like I’ll do 40, and I hit 41. After 45, I just kept going and got nothing done.”

However, not all students are experiencing the social media problem. Sophomore Brendan Giang said he doesn’t use social media enough but is concerned with potential drawbacks from increased use.

“I’m just slightly worried about increasing my social media presence because it is a slippery slope,” Giang said. “It can end up sucking up a lot of time, which is not something I necessarily have, especially being in a high school like Paly.”

Some students attempt to reduce their screen time by using the built-in screen time restrictions on the devices. Other students, including sophomore Emily Stell, use apps designed to track and reduce screen time.

“I use this app called Opal,” Stell said. “It allows you to spend however many hours you want on any app, and then it restricts it after the time is done.”

According to electronic privacy research center, scrolling on social media apps can decrease security by providing companies with the user’s personal data. This data allows social media companies to tailor the content that shows up to the user via algorithms, which in turn can also keep the user on the app. Silverberg Shirota said these algorithms are predatory.

“It’s a little unnerving when you like a certain post, and then later see your feed flooded with similar topics,” Silverberg Shirota said.

To encourage transparency on algorithm usage and user data collection, Giang said the government should assume responsibility and regulate social media companies on a more regular basis.

“These companies know so much about us, and they are using the data to make profit,” Giang said. “I think it’s really important that the United States keeps up with the legislature to make sure that these huge companies are not taking advantage of the consumer base.”

But even despite the controversy surrounding social media, Yeh said social media is crucial to teens for staying connected.

“Social media is a very important part of my life,” Yeh said. “I can’t really imagine life without it.”

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Lucas Yuan
Lucas Yuan, Managing Editor
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