Technology and Its Discontents

The Scroll of Sisyphus

Keep on scrolling, baby

As flies to wanton boys are we to the web developers. They kill us for their sport. Today’s exemplar: the infinite scroll, with which every Facebook user is now intimately familiar. In a way, it’s the modern implementation of the punishment of Sisyphus, except that this time the poor bastard’s gonna scroll that rock up an endless hill that keeps rising ahead of him without end for all eternity. He doesn’t even get that bracing walk back down the hill where, according to Camus, he might clear his head and accept his absurd fate. Oh no. This time he just keeps on scrolling.

Cast around on the web and you’ll find lots of infinite scroll tutorials and discussions warning developers not to implement this evil feature just for the hell of it. That although you might successfully trap your users into scrolling fruitlessly for the bottom of the page that never comes …

Infinite scrolling sometimes leaves users feeling disoriented as they travel down a page that never ends.

Infinite scrolling is fashionable, but it is still one of the abominations of today's web. Indeed, it subverts the web's original intention, and destroys its basic design promise.

Infinite scrolling breaks the scroll bar by causing it to display the page length inaccurately.

Following a link on an infinite scrolling page, and then trying to return to the same point on the originating page is very often a frustrating experience, since the scroll position isn’t generally recorded.

Infinitely boggles the mind and causes unease. Why try to replicate it on a web page? Why subject humanity to it at all? Perhaps because, like Sisyphus, we’re glad to have something to do, even if it’s relentlessly tedious. Like Camus says, “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart.” And, really, what else could explain the popularity of Cookie Clicker?