In our modern age of social media and technology-centric work tasks, so much time is spent scrolling. Some of this is normal and even a good thing. It enables us to keep up with long-distance friends and family. Often, it keeps us informed and in the loop on news and trends—the latter of which can be important depending on your career. Some scrolling is central. But too much can be a source of frustration and time-management problems. It can also have a detrimental impact on your mental health. So, why do we do it? There is actual science behind the way we get sucked into scrolling for hours on end. That means there are ways to avoid it, too! Keep reading for all of the details.
The Science Behind Mindless Scrolling
If you’ve ever wondered why you seem unable to turn away from social media at times, this will be a breakthrough revelation: it’s playing to your dopamine receptors. You know the particular type of satisfied happiness that comes from making an exciting purchase, hearing a new song you like, or smelling something delicious baking in the oven? This is all happening because those sensations are triggering dopamine.
Nicknamed, “the pathway to pleasure,” dopamine is a neurotransmitter that involves reinforcement of the brain’s reward system. It is produced at the base of the brain and contributes to positive mood and a well-balanced brain chemistry. Dopamine can also play a role in learning and attention, movement, heart rate, sleep, pain processing, and more. It’s important. But it can have a dark side, too.
Because dopamine causes such a feel-good reaction, it often inspires us to come back for more and more of what triggered it. That isn’t always good.
Enter, mindless scrolling. It has been proven that smartphones, and specifically social media, trigger dopamine.
Every time you see a new photo or video you like, engage with a positive comment, laugh at something, like a post—basically every moment of scrolling is giving your brain small dopamine hits.
How Can You Decrease Mindless Scrolling?
The fact of the matter is, scrolling is enjoyable. After a long day of work and whatever else is on your plate, you deserve a little dopamine, right? Yes, absolutely! But we’ve got a few tips to help you keep it from going too far.
Put Your Phone Away
When you’re able, plan out time to put your phone on “do not disturb” and toss it in a drawer. Insist with yourself that this is time for a walk outside, reading a book, eating a meal phone-free with loved ones, playing a board game, etc. Hey, it can even be a time for catching up on your favorite show, because this engages the brain in a slightly different way than mindless scrolling. It’s asking you to follow a single narrative and relate to characters—that has very different and more positive mental implications.
Be Intentional About Social Media Time
When you do need or want to engage with social, be thoughtful and firm about it. Let’s say you need to share a post for work and then enjoy catching up on your personal feed. Give yourself an hour to do both and set a timer. When it goes off, hold true to the plan, and put the phone down!
Utilize Digital Tools to Limit Usage
Companies like Apple and TikTok are aware of the “dopamine crisis” posed by their innovations. Believe it or not, they don’t prefer mindless scrolling with no end in sight. They want energized, engaged audiences who are prepared to interact with ads and boost the algorithm with interesting comments and posts. Perhaps for this reason or just because they have a passion for the greater good, too, they have released time management features. Apple offers full transparency about screen time, and you can set parameters to limit yourself. TikTok also has a feature that will notify you when you’ve maxed out your screen time for the day.
Find Off-Screen Hobbies You Love
Given how busy we all are with work and other responsibilities, some of us may find ourselves short on hobbies. In the mission to lessen our screen time and prevent mindless scrolling, this can be a critical tool. Do you like to garden? Is running your thing? Have you been meaning to get back into the knitting you did with grandma as a child? Are you an avid reader who just needs the right book to escape a slump (maybe our very own Dr. Marc A. Ronert’s book)?
Whatever your endeavor, prioritizing an off-screen hobby can be a great way to find yourself kicking the mindless scrolling habit without even trying.
We hope these insights and tips have been helpful for you, and we wish you a smooth journey to kick mindless scrolling to the curb.