When you open your browser, you usually have a legitimate interest. What’s the weather like tomorrow? How long is the flight? How do you write “definitively”?
All valid questions, and the Internet provides.
But then, you jump to another type of content. This second phase starts with a dangerous question that defines what you’re about to do: “What new things do you have for me?”.
Like in a slot machine, you insert your coin and pull the lever of the Internet to see what you get.
You open a news site, then another one in case you missed anything. Done with that, you dive into social media, scrolling through a sea of random pictures from people you’ve never met.
There’s this nagging feeling that the next scroll might reveal something amazing, and you might miss it if you don’t keep scrolling.
Since infinite scrolling is the norm nowadays for many apps and sites, you’re like Sisyphus: eternally rolling the boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back down each time he neared the top. Putting the boulder away is the only way to finish.
You’re aware, deep down, that endless scrolling will only leave you feeling mentally drained. True happiness doesn’t hide in the next image or video you’ll see.
When you get lost in your feed, you’re just avoiding the next challenging task.
Some ways to prevent mindless scrolling
It’s hard, but if you don’t allow this endless browsing to happen, you can get more time to dedicate to what can truly make you happy and fulfilled. Here are a few things you can try.
Catch yourself before it happens
It might sound trivial, but it works. Set up an alarm every hour to get you back from the mindless scrolling. This alarm can be enabled throughout your day, and it’ll catch you once or twice in the middle of doing something you don’t want to do.
Our default mode of functioning in the world is through automatisms. Waiting in line? Check the phone. Watching a movie? Let’s snack.
If you start meditating, you can become more aware of your acts. What am I doing now? How do I feel? What do I want to do next? Those questions will help you to tame the mind.
Like that croissant waiting for you in the kitchen, removing the temptation is better. Uninstall the apps you know are not helping you, block access to the news sites, and leave the phone in another room at night. If the distraction is not there, you’re safe.
Allocate specific times for tasks
Want to tackle that lingering to-do list item? Set aside the next 45 minutes as if it’s an unmissable doctor’s appointment. During that time, let this task be your sole focus.
Practice with all of this, and see how it goes. Having a more focused mind is one of the key ingredients in happiness, so any effort in that direction will be a great investment.
And remember, happiness is not a scroll away.
Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev