Have you ever opened your phone for checking a DM and found yourself scrolling through useless content half an hour later? Or have you binged watch an entire season of a show in one night, keeping urgent work aside? If yes, then there is bad news. You are completely normal, like millions of people mindlessly empty scrolling through social media, and shows every day.
But what is empty scrolling? How is it forcing us to engage our minds into mindless bingeing over being productive? And how to break this perpetual addiction?
The Origin of Empty Scrolling
The roots of empty scrolling can be found in cybersickness, an ongoing tussle with the continuously technologically transforming world and the human body. Joshua Ehrlich, a world-renowned psychologist, says, “It (mindless scrolling) really is an addiction, and we’re wired for this,” he says. “The same brain pathways get stimulated as they do in a chemical addiction.”
Addictive by Design
Why do you think that millions of users cannot get their eyes off the screen for more than an hour? We are not addicted to Instagram, or in general internet. There are businesses running based on how much time and attention we give to this application. Some of the world’s top designers, engineers, and business people are in perpetual hustles to make you scroll and binge more.
The competition of these attention-grabbing applications is not just with other applications but also with our off-screen activities. For example, meeting with our friends, our work, or even our sleep. Netflix’s chairman in 2017, Reed Hastings, famously stated that they consider sleep a competitor. He said, “You get a show or a movie you’re really dying to watch, and you end up staying up late at night, so we actually compete with sleep. And we’re winning.”
But, how can we be knowingly forced to choose mindless distractions over our work and health? Years of user behavior are put together to make us empty scroll for hours. Numerous tricks including
- Infinite Scroll so the user can loose the track of time
- Alarming Red Notifications (red is a psycological trigger color that creates a sense of urgency)
- Autoplyaing before the user have chance to decide whether they want to see any more content or not
- Timeline Stories that disappear in 24 hours
The above tricks facilitate us with instant engagement. But, above all, the best silicon valley trick to push you deeper into the null void of mindless scrolling is tracking your likes and dislikes to recommend content specifically targeted to your weaknesses.
How Attention Economy have Changed Our Life?
The attention economy is the game of gathering our attention and data on social media and other attention-grabbing platforms, then sold to advertisers for money. Post companies have succeeded in making our mind spaces a potential source of profit, our lifestyle completely changed.
Previously, we had ample solitude and alone time. We were not followed by our friends and actors every time through the black screens. From the moment we wake up to the time we are asleep, we live inside the global attention mall. We dive back into it for every dull split second of our day, leaving our minds always busy.
Though having a busy mind might sound good, but not facilitating us a regular undistracted solitude time is the worst thing we can do to our creativity and mental health. Tristan Harris from the Center for Humane Technology calls this human downgrading. He defines it as “a systems-level explanation for how we ended up in the middle of a technology-driven existential crisis due to increasing the extraction of human attention.”
Empty Scrolling is Runing our Lives
Technology and advertisement companies keep upgrading their algorithms to grab our online attention and in the process; downgrade our ability to focus and reflect, having an opinion, and process our own emotions; all of which are the very thing that makes us human.
Regular solitude helps us cope up with stress, it gives us time to introspect, and build stronger relationships with our loved ones. In addition, researchers find that in the time we feel bored, our mind comes up with some of the best ideas. Famously put by Albert Einstein, “creativity comes for solitude.”
Today, many of us can go for years without giving our minds five unstimulated minutes, and all of this is ruining our lives. As a result, we are unable to read a book, work with deep focus, watch a whole movie without distraction, and even fall asleep.
How to Fix our Addiction
One of the best tricks is to treat our time as we treat our money, budget it. Manage time, keep chunks of time out for the work that you have to do. Try keeping aside your mobile and see how long you can go without check it. A huge part of the battle is teaching yourself that you don’t need to stave off your boredom through these apps.