Autoplay: Are you still watching?

We are watching The Office at friends’ house.

Once the episode ends, there is a prompt on the screen asking if we want to watch the next episode. If you have been on Netflix or any other streaming platforms, you know these prompts usually pop up after you’ve been watching for a few hours or more. It’s mostly to help save Netflix’s bandwidth. So, why is Netflix already asking if we want to watch another episode?

They have autoplay turned off: a simple, yet effective way to resist the attention economy.

All media streaming platforms are designed for binge-consumption. The default option is to keep watching, listening, consuming more and more content. Autoplay is one of Silicon Valley’s dirty tricks to keep us hooked on content by default.


‘Opt Out’ Policies Increase Organ Donation

What does organ donation have anything to do with autoplay?

In countries where organ donation is the default option at the time of death, people must explicitly “opt out” if they choose not to have their organs donated. More than 90% of people are registered to donate their organs in these so called “opt out” countries. More accurately, only 10% of people actively opt-out of organ donation. In contrast, in countries where people must explicitly “opt in” to donate their organs, fewer than 15% of people register for organ donation. What accounts for the difference in organ donation registration in these countries?

Whatever takes the most effort, we are less likely to do it.

And Silicon Valley knows this. That’s why the autoplay feature works really well. If we had to make a conscious effort to opt-in to watch the next video, episode, content by pressing a button, we might choose differently. We might decide to get up off the couch instead. Go do something else we have been meaning to do.

But autoplay makes it effortless to settle for yet another episode. We become so immersed within the world of the story, the experience becoming so pleasurable that we are unable to remove ourselves from their seats willingly.


Intentional content consumption.

Autoplay is unintentional. It happens to you. Automatically. One after another. In fact, autoplay can be so addictive and harmful that the US tried to ban it in an effort to reduce digital features that are designed to be addictive.

Luckily the solution to Silicon Valley’s dirty trick to keep us hooked on content consumption can be as simple as turning autoplay off. Don’t let content happen to you. Search for what you want to watch intentionally. If you want to binge-watch ten episodes of a show, cool, but choose each and every episode. Don’t let the algorithm control how much content you consume. Choose yourself.

Opt-out of autoplay.

Until next time,

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