Infinite scrolling: How smartphone addiction steals your time

You plan to leave the house in an hour. So, to be sure, you plug in your faithful companion once again. Before you go, you double-check to make sure you have your smartphone with you. Just one more minute until the train arrives. Quickly send a few more snaps. The train ride only lasts about 30 TikToks. Your friend is running late – no problem, just scroll through Instagram again. You both sit down at the table in the restaurant, placing your phone on the table between each other. You start off by taking a few more snaps, and when your friend briefly goes to the restroom, you scroll through Instagram once more. In the evening, when you come home, you’re actually tired, but you indulge in another scroll session because you haven’t really been on your phone much today, right?.

Is this behaviour still normal, or is it already a smartphone addiction? And what role does infinite scrolling play in all of this?

DataReportal provides extensive data and insights on global digital usage, social media, and other relevant topics related to internet usage. The January 2023 report shows that people worldwide spent approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes on their mobile phones daily. One in five individuals spent more than 4 hours and 30 minutes. TikTok users spend about 23 hours and 28 minutes on the platform monthly, and throughout the day, we check our smartphones approximately 58 times. Additionally, 3 out of 4 individuals belonging to Generation Z admit to spending too much time on their phones. Are you brave? Then take a look at your average screen time yourself. Often, it is much higher than we think (Kemp, 2023).

Smartphone-Sucht das unendliche Scrollen
Time per month that is spent using different social media apps (Kemp, 2023).

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How does infinite scrolling work?

Infinite scrolling is a user-friendly feature that is gaining popularity among web and application developers. It facilitates the seamless display of content on the same page as the user scrolls, without interruptions or the need to click on links to go to the next page. It utilizes JavaScript and enables a continuous display of new information to the user, which enhances the user experience by eliminating the need to jump back and forth between different pages. This feature has become an effective technique for presenting content and is widely used by web and application designers to improve the overall usability of their products.

Social media platforms employ the concept of flow, which enhances productivity and creates a positive user experience. When in the flow state, individuals become engrossed in activities and are more focused, experiencing feelings of pleasure. Social media platforms capitalize on this by creating an environment where users become fully engrossed and lose track of time by offering never-ending scroll pages. This behavior is further reinforced by the engaging content showcasing interesting or humorous posts. Over time, users find it challenging to disengage from the platform and may struggle to find the willpower to put their devices aside. Studies by Montag et al. (2019) have shown how the flow theory affects social media habits, providing insights that can aid in creating more user-friendly social media platforms.

While you're scrolling, it usually feels good and effortless. Especially in moments when you've lost track of time while doing it, how do you feel afterwards? Are you satisfied with having spent so much time on your smartphone?

Surveillance capitalism and social media

The objective of implementing an infinite scrolling feature on platforms is to enhance user engagement and increase application usage frequency. Infinite scrolling allows networks to retain user attention and ultimately generate value for corporations. While social media is free of charge, data is a valuable currency that is exchanged on the platform. With infinite scrolling, users leave behind data that is highly beneficial for corporations as it enables them to provide content and advertising that matches the individual preferences and interests of users. This not only promotes consumption but also provides crucial insights into current trends and potential platform optimizations.

Infinite scrolling is among the many techniques utilized to enhance user engagement with the platform. Other features, such as push notifications, pull-to-refresh, and popular interaction buttons, serve to deliver short but valuable bursts of gratification. At the same time, it’s worth noting that some view these features as critical in some cases. When it comes to surveillance capitalism, it is a concept that describes the gathering of information about users’ behaviors, interests, and preferences. This data is then processed to provide a personalized experience to users while helping companies increase advertising revenue. However, critics have voiced concerns about the potential for extensive surveillance and personal data use leading to manipulation, exploitation, and restricting personal decision-making (Sindermann et al., 2021).

Who determines which content you consume on social media? Who determines how much time you spend on social media? How relevant is this content to your life? What real value do you gain from social media consumption?

Smartphone-Sucht das unendliche Scrollen
Every interaction triggers a broad data flow between different companies (Christl, 2017).

What impact can infinite scrolling have?

According to research by Kemp in 2023, individuals tend to interact with their smartphones approximately 58 times per day, implying an interruption roughly once every 10-15 minutes during their waking hours. This can potentially impact productivity, as it tends to divert attention from work, learning, and social interactions. Using smartphones during breaks can further hinder relaxation and rest intervals, leading to overstimulation and discomfort. As professionals, it is vital to acknowledge the significant impact of frequent smartphone usage on our overall performance, both in the workplace and outside. Therefore, it is advisable to minimize smartphone usage during working hours, prioritize legitimate interactions, and plan regular intervals of focused activities to boost efficiency and productivity.

Ensuring a sufficient amount of sleep is crucial for maintaining both physical and mental wellbeing. It is imperative that we prioritize getting 7-9 hours of quality rest every day. However, it is worth noting that distractions such as “just one more” episode, quick sessions on TikTok and scrolling through our phones before bedtime can interfere with our sleep cycle and overall quality of sleep. This is due to blue light emissions from screens, which disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, as well as the mentally stimulating content, which often makes it difficult to relax at night. As such, we should endeavor to be conscious of these factors to better our chances of achieving optimal rest.

Blaulicht und Schlaf Infinite scrolling: How smartphone addiction steals your time

In which situations do you often reach for your smartphone? How aware are you when you do so? What tasks or emotions are you attempting to avoid by utilizing your smartphone?

When does someone start to be considered addicted to their smartphone?

The subject of smartphone addiction has been gaining attention from medical and psychological experts in recent years. Currently, there is no universally established clinical diagnosis for this condition, as it is not specifically categorized in the DSM-5 or ICD-11. However, there is ongoing discussion about excessive use of smartphones and other digital devices under the umbrella term of “Internet Use Disorder” or “Internet Gaming Disorder”, which are included in these manuals as areas for future research. According to Sindermann et al. (2021), there are indications that overusing social media can lead to addiction-like symptoms. It is important for healthcare professionals to remain informed about this topic to better understand and address potential concerns surrounding smartphone addiction.

  • Salience is a term that pertains to the capacity of a substance, behavior, or experience to gain attention and acquire a certain level of importance, even to the point of interrupting other tasks. This capacity is closely linked to the ability to elicit and maintain an addictive impulse, which is often fueled by factors like endless scrolling and push notifications in the context of social media use.
  • The phenomenon of tolerance building in the context of smartphone addiction refers to the gradual increase in the amount of time an individual spends on their device to attain the same level of satisfaction or reward as before. The consequence of this behavior is that one’s smartphone usage tends to persistently and incrementally rise over time.
  • Individuals who struggle with excessive smartphone use may experience significant changes in their mood states. Although they may feel heightened excitement, joy, or arousal when using their smartphone or accessing social media, they may also experience negative moods such as anger, irritability, or frustration when unable to control their use or disconnected from it. Furthermore, research shows excessive social media use may increase the likelihood of developing depression or anxiety disorders. It is important to recognize these potential mood changes and seek professional help if needed.
  • Smartphone addiction can lead individuals to withdraw from social interactions and activities that were once enjoyable. This can result in a decline of social relationships, hobbies, and obligations. The frequent and excessive use of smartphones can cause individuals to spend increasing amounts of time alone, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness. This withdrawal and detachment from others can reinforce the use of smartphones and perpetuate the cycle of addiction.
  • Excessive usage of smartphones can potentially cause conflicts during social interactions, both in professional and personal settings. This can be particularly challenging for individuals who tend to neglect their obligations or important tasks due to excessive dependence on their smartphones. This can lead to strained relationships and confrontation with their family, friends, or colleagues. Therefore, it is crucial for individuals to maintain a healthy balance between the usage of smartphones and their responsibilities. By doing so, they can prevent possible conflicts and ensure that their relationships and work life are not negatively impacted by their smartphone usage.
  • Individuals who are dealing with smartphone addiction often strive to manage their usage habits to no avail. These individuals may experience frustration, guilt, and a sense of helplessness when their attempts to control usage become unsuccessful. This cycle could result in even stronger cravings and dependence, leading to a vicious pattern of trying to manage usage but ultimately failing.

Smartphone addiction has been observed to have several harmful consequences that impact an individual’s daily life. However, it is important to understand that the factors mentioned do not necessarily confirm a smartphone addiction diagnosis. It is sensible to consult professional help if you feel that your smartphone use is becoming unmanageable and you are struggling to make modifications on your own. Seeking assistance from a psychological counselor, relying on psychotherapy or participating in guided self-help groups are excellent ways to manage and improve the situation.

Be completely honest with yourself: which symptoms do you recognize in yourself? Do you want to change your smartphone usage? What do you hope to achieve from this change?

7 tips to get over your smartphone-addiction

Although certain personality factors, such as neuroticism and impulsivity, and environmental influences, such as endless scrolling and push notifications, can contribute to excessive smartphone use, you are not helpless against social media. Here are some tips:

1. Creating awareness: reflect on your usage habits and the impact they have on your life.

2. Set clear goals: Define realistic goals, such as a time limit for daily use, and goals for other activities you want to do instead.

3. Create offline time: plan offline time in your daily routine to focus on other areas.

4. Reduce notifications: limit or turn off unnecessary notifications to avoid constant distractions.

5. Find alternative activities: get involved in hobbies, sports, reading, or social activities you enjoy and consciously make time for them.

6. Use features to aid in limiting time, such as disabling autoplay or setting time limits for apps.

7. Seek support: if struggling to overcome excessive smartphone use, seek support from friends, family, or professional counseling. Communication and strategy development can be helpful.

What is your opinion on this topic? How do you feel about social media, and have you ever felt trapped by it? Do you think it's acceptable for social media platforms to use processes that keep you addicted to their platform, even if it's detrimental to you? Please, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Let this post serve as a reminder of the impact that social media can have on our lives. While it may seem daunting to navigate the constant stream of content, we have the power to be intentional with our actions. By recognizing the influence that social media can have on our behavior, we can take control of our online experiences and create a more fulfilling reality. Let’s choose to focus on what truly matters and use social media as a tool for positive growth and connection. Together, we can inspire each other to be the best version of ourselves both online and offline.


  • Kemp, S. (2023). Digital 2023: Global Overview Report — DataReportal – Global Digital Insights. DataReportal – Global Digital Insights.
  • Montag, C., Lachmann, B., Herrlich, M. & Zweig, K. A. (2019). Addictive Features of Social Media/Messenger Platforms and Freemium Games against the Background of Psychological and Economic Theories. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(14), 2612.
  • Sindermann, C., Ostendorf, S. & Montag, C. (2021). 5.1 Übernutzung. In Orientierungen zum verantwortungsvollen Umgang mit Daten.
  • Christl, W. (2017, 8. Juni). Corporate Surveillance In Everyday Life. How Companies Collect, Combine, Analyze, Trade, and Use Personal Data on Billions. Cracked Labs.

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