How to be mindful of mindless scrolling

by | Mar 20, 2023 | Opinion

Many of us likely know what it feels like to mindlessly scroll. The most common example is when you go to bed on schedule, but then decide that a quick check of (insert social media platform here) will only take five minutes. This can be a dangerous way to think. Five minutes then turns into ten, which turns into fifteen, thirty, and so on, until you’ve lost over an hour of sleep trying to keep up with the celebs, or questioning if this is really the day your social-savvy friend finally went 24 hours without posting something. 

That’s not a healthy way to live. Without your mind truly engaging with what you’re seeing, nothing productive happens. You can easily end up locking yourself into a monotonous state and not taking proper care of yourself.

The effects that mindless scrolling has on our holistic health are well-documented by several reports. Heck, even Apple Chief Executive Officer, Tim Cook–the person most responsible for advancing Steve Jobs’s genius creation of the iPhone, the very device half of consumers use religiously–is concerned with  how we let ourselves be consumed by scrolling through feeds. ““I think it’s bad for your mental health. I think it’s bad for the people around you,” Cook said in an interview with CNBC

Illustration by Lorenzo Tamburrino @RenMangaka

The Newport Institute also wrote a report that documented how the effects of mindless scrolling impact mental and physical health. “Research also shows that the cycle of phone addiction, mental health, and sleep deprivation is associated with lower self-esteem, reduced coping abilities, and poorer academic performance,” said the study. But we also forget about the physical impacts of mindless scrolling, such as strained eyes, loss of focus and added fatigue.

Mindless scrolling, especially when it comes to social media, can be ruinous for your health. The problem becomes either resisting that urge, or finding a way to channel it elsewhere. And channeling it elsewhere is exactly what some tech companies are trying out.

Samsung’s new Galaxy smartphones have a novel feature where, from the Home screen, you’re just a swipe-right away from having a collection of recent news articles relevant to you. This can be a much more acceptable “mindless scroll” because it’s a bit more intentional. It’s no different than grabbing a newspaper and flipping through it. You’re looking for quality, attention-grabbing headlines and when you see such headlines and start looking further into it, you’re no longer mindlessly scrolling. You’re now reading a story. 

Now, obviously it matters what news content you choose to take in. But whatever content you choose to read, focus on that content. No replies or arguments between people. The comment section is dangerous and can easily suck us into the zombified well of scrolling and spectating. 

Being intentional with your consumption, like reading articles that are relevant to you, is a better way to avoid the temptation of scrolling. It offers an opportunity for our minds to be more engaged and thoughtful. Social media, in contrast, can take away our joy and hinder our creative thought process. 

So rather than surf the random waves of Twitter while trying to fall asleep, read a news article, and let your mind wander along the trail of critical thought.

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