Infinite Scroll

For the past few months, I’ve been actively trying to spend less time online while reading articles to understand why it is so tedious to look at content on my phone and computer.

For context, I’m a graphic designer who spends at least eight hours a day looking at screens: I primarily design books (but also this website) and I see letters for the best part of the day. 

To start, I decided to limit my use of social media apps. I followed the advice of articles I read and deactivated all notifications except calls, messages, and emails. I now only use Facebook through my browser and still keep an Instagram account to showcase my work. One of the first things that started to trouble me and influence my decision was Reels (I don’t use TikTok) because it’s hard to keep the attention and to even remember what I just saw before the next video begins, and again and again. It’s also that most of the content suggested to me looks the same, lacking any novelty or surprise. I often come across the same design approaches, focusing on contemporary architecture and art books, posters for exhibitions and club nights, and most of them need more context, including discussions, production and processes. The algorithm has learned what I do; the more I scroll, the more I see the same things over and over. I’m curious if many things are designed solely for social media hype, considering how they will perform in the apps.

This March, Portugal will have general elections for Prime Minister after a (for various reasons) disgraceful exit of António Costa. According to the polls, the far-right is rising, getting almost 20% of the votes. While most of us would think that the average right-wing voter would be a boomer, stats show that a considerable part of the younger generation (<35) demonstrates an intention to vote for Chega. This party has a significant presence on social media, with channels, bots and influencers, managing to deliver scapegoats to the young people’s frustrations on unemployment and low public investments and access to public services outside of the Portuguese coastline. The culprits for them are immigrants, minorities, women, LGBTQ+ people, taxes on labour, public education and healthcare, and so on.

When I read these news articles regarding the demographics of voters, I couldn’t stop wondering how is the algorithm also responsible — along with many other factors — for this radicalisation of thought and individualism. Because I’m a graphic designer, it presents me with an infinite scroll of posters and books on the topics I work on; what type of content appears in the timeline of the person who gets their news and information through social media?How can anyone vote against their rights to “shake the system”? Suppose someone spends all day looking at reels and posts devoid of context but are short and incisive on solving their concerns. In that case, they will eventually start to believe the problem is the Other: the woman who has free and safe access to an abortion, the immigrant who supposedly comes to the country to get social benefits, the woman who has the right to marry another woman, and the many prejudices that those kind of discoursescreated and fosters under the disguise of “information”.

March 6th, 2024

(Marcia’s contribution for “Harvesting Knowledge” was written in the days preceding the general election of March 10th, where the far-right Chega came third, with 18% of the ballots)

Márcia Novais is the founding designer of AMAonline. She is based in Porto and has designed for museums, public institutions, and independent publishers on various projects, such as exhibitions, books, and visual identities. She has been receiving several awards with her work, most recently, Bronze Medal — “Best Book Design from all over the World” with the book Moer by Ana Jotta and Ricardo Valentim that she designed for Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, AIGA’s 50 Books, 50 Covers with the book Y/our future is now by Olafur Eliasson that she designed for Museu de Serralves and an Honorable Mention on DGLAB’s Book Design Prize with the book Ana by Ricardo Nicolau. In 2013, she was selected as one of the New Visual Artists by Print Magazine.