‘Doomscrolling’ seems to have been the dominating concept du jour for 2020, the word even earning its own spot (along with its compatriot ‘doomsurfing’) in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Unfortunately, the ability to keep you scrolling through social media has been reinforced through years of dedicated testing, iteration and design.
One way social media manipulates our behavior is by changing our relationship with the “stopping rule.”
“Our brain naturally sorts things we have to do into giving the events of our day a beginning, middle and end. If you remove the ‘end’ signal – by using the infinite scroll feature on social media – the brain doesn’t know when it should stop, and so it just keeps going.” (Sage Publications Special Report).
It’s easy to get caught up in the doom and addiction of technology, particularly as it relates to social media. However, while social media use is correlated with acute stress and increased levels of depression and anxiety, technology can be used to enhance mindfulness, positive mental health and community — when used mindfully.
Take these steps for renegotiating your relationship with technology in 2021:
Break the addiction cycle: As your brain is increasingly receiving bursts of dopamine (happiness hormone) or cortisol (stress hormone, hello doomscroll), you may feel sucked in due to the “lottery effect” social media has on our brains. This variable reward system enables you to get lost in the scroll as your brain is seeking the next reward signal in the form of juicy content, alarming news or the next puppy photo. Setting a timer for your social media session will help you remain mindful of time spent on your phone, creating your own artificial stop signal for your brain.
Customize your content: Subscribe to content and newsletters that promote your interests, hobbies and positive mental health. Newsletters such as the wabi-sabi letter promote positive mental health and wellness through content. Apps such as Shine provide meditation tips and mindfulness exercises, enhancing our relationship with ourselves through use of technology.
Delete, mute, reduce: Take a social media and technology audit in your life. How many tech products services or streams do you subscribe to that do not ‘spark joy’ (to borrow a KonMari core philosophy)? Just as you prune your living space of junk, consider your digital space as a room to be pruned and organized: identify which platforms are serving you and why. Consider deleting apps or creating a greater barrier to use in your day-to-day life. For example, if you find yourself endlessly scrolling Facebook feeds, try deleting the app on your phone and only accessing when needed via browser.
Balance your relationship: Often we hear about New Years Resolutions that friends and family are deleting social media apps for good and quitting all technological vices. Here’s the thing: technology is not always a vice. In some cases, the big “baddie” that is social media can actually contribute to positive mental health and feelings of togetherness — which is especially important during a time where we are physically apart. Be mindful of your use of social media and technology as it relates to your unique experience. Listen to your body’s cues: is this energizing or depleting? Where can I improve so that I may have a more balanced relationship with this tool?
The digital sphere is now a fully integrated part of our daily lives. Learning how to leverage your relationship with technology so that it is additive, rather than exhausting, will set you up for success in the long-run.