Have you ever gone through your social media feed when you realized hours had gone by? If so, you have fallen down the "rabbit hole" of the endless scroll. An average user spent around 5 to 6 hours using smartphones while 51% was done using social media apps in 2021 according to GlobalWebIndex. During the Digital era and the COVID-19 pandemic, many jobs had been shifted from on-site to fully remote and some roles such as Digital Marketers, Content Creators or Headhunters are required to work with social media platforms most of their time. When the temptation slowly came, they got sucked in the endless loop of scrolling.
However, it is not just your personal problem, many people are still struggling with controlling their social media usage limit. Therefore, in this article, we will take a look at what exactly infinitive scrolling is, its consequences and the possible solutions you can take to get out of it.
1. What is infinite scrolling?
Infinite scroll refers to the near-endless scrolling that social media platform users often find themselves committing to when going through their feeds. It's the nonstop assault of content that one surrenders themselves to, even staying up late in order to do so. Social media feeds are infinite by design, you could scroll forever and never run out of posts. This scrolling can sometimes feel automatic or mindless, more a result of conditioning than a constant choice.
2. The hidden dangers of the infinite scroll
Infinite scrolling can seriously hamper productivity and cause big distractions. It can make us forget what we were originally working on and lose track of time, which we could’ve used for more productive activities that advance our goals. Spending so much time scrolling means less physical activity, which is harmful to our physical health. Prolonged exposure to a screen’s blue light can lead to eye fatigue and discomfort, and prolonged phone use before bed can cause sleep loss.
It is also detrimental to your mental wellness because the infinite scroll creates a never-ending supply of new information and visuals. This might be too much for some people to handle, resulting in sensory overload. Causing overstimulation makes people feel overwhelmed, stressed out, and exhausted.
3. But why are we still doing it?
Research shows that users go from one post to another on social media every 19 seconds. The behavior is repeated until some kind of reward is delivered. In the case of our social media scrolling, the reward is a post that we find to be funny, entertaining or something we just plain like. If we find something worthwhile, we stop scrolling long enough to take it in, and then it’s right back to scrolling, in search of the next post that scratches our itch. When we scroll through our feeds switching between content so quickly, the brain gets a hit of dopamine each time. Once you feel the intense joy and pleasure, your body and brain want you to keep going back for more. If you feel irritable after a few days away from your board, this is likely the reason.
Believe or not, falling into this rabbit hole is not fully your fault, when the advent of infinite from social media developer scrolling feature marked a shift in how we consume contents. For example, when you watch a video on YouTube, the next video loads immediately. Netflix starts the next episode of your favourite show right away. Browsing Reddit reveals an endless stream of social media content.
4. Lastly, how to stop scrolling and scrolling
To break free from endless scrolling, you can take small steps to regain control of your time and attention. There are many different solutions that you can do in order to get over the social media feed obsession.
Turn off the notifications
For a start, you should turn off push notifications on social media apps. Do you really need to be instantly alerted when someone likes your Instagram post, retweets your Tweet, or pins something from your Pinterest board? Notifications for all non-essential apps (phone, message, and maybe WhatsApp depending on how/why you use it) should really be turned off at all times. You’ll be surprised how free you feel without a barrage of notifications on your screen each time you pick your phone up.
Once you’ve identified which apps are taking most of your time, set yourself daily time limits for social media apps using Screen Time on the iPhone or Digital Wellbeing on Android. Once you’ve reached your daily limit you will be notified by a pop-up on your screen and you can extend this setting to lock you out of the apps completely once you’ve reached your limit.
Delete social media apps
If you want to take more extreme actions, delete social media apps from your phone completely. This will force you to access them through browsers which are more time consuming and less user-friendly, and will prevent you from accessing them so routinely.
Take time out
Sometimes the physical act of separation is what you need. Leave your phone at home while you go for a walk. Signal the end of your working day by switching off your laptop and putting your phone away, try reading a book or journaling to wind down. When you get your morning coffee, engage with the staff instead of standing in a queue of customers with their heads in their phones. You’ll be amazed what some time away from the screen can do.
It’s perfectly okay to use social media, but it’s also important to be aware of when we’re overdoing it. It may not always be easy to break free from the grasp of the infinite scroll, but it starts with personal awareness.
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