Piece by Piece: scrolling and streaming


Brian Higgins

Staff reporter Madison Saviano explores hot topics and issues that students face in her weekly column Piece by Piece.

Madison Saviano, Staff Reporter

Every once in a while I watch something that excites my mind. 

Most of the time we consume content that comforts us, calms us. Easy watching, easy listening, all to settle the inertia of our lives. 

I don’t use Instagram much but for those who do I often wonder how that swift flow of digital media is cathartic. I get kind of exhausted processing that wild assortment of videos and stories and memes and reels. Scrolling from a video about a dog chasing its tail to an unexpected clip of someone popping a pimple is jarring. Sometimes though you find a gem, and that reinvigorates the search.  

We learned about withholding rewards in psychology and how addictive it is when something good could be coming but we just don’t know when. It’s also the same logic behind slot machines. Our hardwiring is used against us and even when it takes a toll on our mental and social health we can’t pry ourselves. 

We process a lot of data. Think about how many posts you’ve saved in the past few days or how many you’ve shared. And if your preferred type of content is in the traditional sense of entertainment (like TV or YouTube) it’s just the same. 

I love watching movies. They’re little tidbits, unbingeable and complete. Even still I find myself tapped, and I wonder if anyone feels the same. I’m tired of watching, tired of streaming. 

Even for the most pristine examples of ‘content’ the exhaustion feels the same. When I can go to the TCM section of HBO Max and scroll through endless classics, binge them even, it’s no longer a novelty or a viewing

I’m glad that for $9.99/month a whole media library is available, and I don’t mean that facetiously. For the movies that were previously only available on iTunes for a rental of $4.99 I’m genuinely very happy that someone gets them for virtually free in their package of thousands of movies. 

There needs to be viewer caution, though, or else even the most special tidbits will get diluted amidst the swift stream of streaming services.

Most of what there is to see in the world you can also see on YouTube or TikTok. I’m not going to discredit this feat. For my ten year old sister who has yet to see many marvels I think it is good she has opportunities to experience secondhand. I would hope, though, that the lure to experience firsthand is prioritized and actively sought out. 

It’s not a problem with content, then, but viewership. 

It has become clear that ‘content’ is content, in the most business-like sense, and that makes us consumers. Just as you would to mitigate fast fashion, adjust your consumer habits and the market will change. 

Earlier I wondered whether others were feeling the same sort of exhaustion at constantly being marketed towards and worked into algorithms, and I think soon we should know. 

Either way, whether the media environment does or does not change, you can act independently. Maybe a detox or reset isn’t called for, maybe plug in a little more; take in content that excites your mind. Then, you’ll probably want to experience things first hand anyways.