Scrolling through your phone is not your choice. Infinite scroll is intentionally designed to ensure maximum time spent on an app. It is highly addictive and does not give you an option to stop. It’s so easy to move onto the next post or video because all it takes is a small gesture (and due to muscle memory, it is almost an instinct to make that scrolling gesture) and without a pause between the two posts, your brain doesn’t have time to make the choice of whether or not it wants to continue. The brain needs a break from the constant stimuli to decide if it even wants to continue engaging in the activity.
Similarly, lately I’ve been noticing that I don’t have a choice regarding what I read. As soon as words are presented to me, I automatically start reading them and my brain starts attempting to understand it, even though I haven’t made the decision to read these words. For example, if I see Graffiti words while walking down the street, I’ll start reading them. If I see a sign, I’ll start reading it. If a video I’m watching has captions, I’ll start reading them, even if I don’t want to, even if the sound is on. And after finishing reading an interesting article, I automatically start reading the article suggestions below.
This is especially frustrating when I am on an app with infinite scroll and am presented with a post that has many words, rather than just a photo or video because I will start reading it, even if it’s a waste of my time, and I’ll get sucked into reading a story about some random person’s experience, when I don’t even care about this person or story. Unlike articles on a news site on the laptop, these posts tend not to have a title, so I can’t even stop and decide whether or not I want to continue based on the title. Instead, I end up reading the whole thing, wasting 5 minutes, and then realizing how stupid the thing I just read was and realizing that I wouldn’t have even wanted to read it if I had known what it was about!
Another frustrating habit I’ve developed is reading video comments. At times, it feels like my brain is seeking words to read (even though I may not want to read, if I stopped and thought about it) so while a video is playing, I’ll scroll through the comments and start reading, and reading and reading and reading, for no reason, until I snap out of it. That’s when I realize that I am reading about what other people think about this video, for no reason. I don’t know these people and I don’t care what they think, why am I so obsessed with learning what they have to say? The truth is, I’m not obsessed with what people have to say, I am bored and reading comments is just a great way to occupy my brain without committing to an activity that would require more of an attention span and time commitment (never mind that I have an endless amount of time to spend as I choose).
Just like scrolling without choosing, reading without choosing has caused me to fill my brain with useless information that I don’t want to know, leaving my brain fried after I finally get myself to stop. My instinct to automatically read and comprehend words in front of me is keeping me from mental peace and it ends now.
Starting today, I will try to implement the following steps to stop myself from reading anything and everything put in front of me:
- Limit exposure to information that I don’t want to know by limiting time spent on Instagram and YouTube.
- Limit exposure to my phone by replacing it with my laptop after a certain time limit (I think phone apps are more addictive than the web versions).
- Do not read anything without a title (except signs for traffic, safety etc).
- Wait 1 minute before opening another article/post/medium that will pop up as a suggestion after you finish reading the current one.
Thank you so much for choosing to read this article! Please let me know if you can relate to this and share this with your friends if you found it interesting (and a good use of your time). Looking forward to (not) reading your comments!