New found addictions: Mindless scrolling, insatiable needs

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A couple of years in and we have fallen into the tedious cycle of waking up to our laptops for classes and work, eating lunch with our phones for a quick social media fix, and sleeping in after a long day of watching Instagram stories.

It cannot be denied that Twitter, for one, acts like a digital newspaper for mornings when you need to know the latest trends—Who is running for president? Who is dating who? Is this Kpop band going to make a comeback soon? Did the COMELEC extend voter registration? Similarly, Tiktok is a hodgepodge of useless and eye-catching shorts, of meaningless challenges and overconsumption of clothes, and of sourdough bread recipes and puppies that press buttons. Facebook also serves its purpose of showcasing family gatherings and overly-philosophical quotes that come with every profile update.

Somehow, these social media platforms have successfully mastered the art of serving us practically everything we need to know at the moment in such bite-sized, easily digestible pieces and colorful memes. We can jump from one topic to another without hesitation or fear of ending up bored because these trends are also artificially tailored to cater to our interests. The gist of it all is that these platforms have colors of their own and we maximize them to our heart’s desire.

Funnily enough, the past was once filled with endless debates on the usage of technology in the digital world and now we do not even have a choice when we are living in a situation that necessitates it. I am not a hypocrite when it comes to advocating for technology and social media because they do have a purpose. We just have not fully come around to incorporating them to our daily lives just yet. Instead, we use these platforms as “bubbles” or as soft places to land whenever we feel like we need comfort, on days similar to having a breakup or failing an exam.

However healthy this coping mechanism may sound to others, this habit of scrolling through social media for a short-lived sense of happiness must not fester because once it does, we are guaranteed to end up addicted.

What is an addiction if not the need to satiate our wants with unhealthy options and ending up feeling as empty as before? Psychology Today talks about how social media changes our brain through triggering an unappeasable dopamine hit, leaving us chronically distracted and addicted for more. We are no longer living by Aristotle’s ideas on the uses of communication or the social purpose of it all; we are simply feeding an addiction of perfectionism and attraction to the number of likes.

Everytime I opened Instagram and mindlessly scrolled through posts, I subconsciously imprinted on my mind the idea that everything must look perfect if I wanted to impress others. After a while I would open Tiktok and get a glimpse of what life is like for another stranger, or watch babies take their first steps, or even watch twenty seconds of people singing on staircases. I would scroll and scroll until I felt the need to get back to work, only to get distracted once again. “I have such a short attention span,” I would say, lightly brushing it off as I open my phone once more, willingly getting sucked in. In reality, I am creating an unhealthy obsession, rewiring my brain to the same damned cycle of getting bored, picking up my phone, and putting it down only to open it back up. Rinse and repeat.

I found solutions to this problem after hours of scrolling through discussion boards and research studies. A majority of online bloggers and discussion contributors state that the way to combat this is through any kind of distraction. Reading books, crocheting, or anything that could calm our minds down would eventually stop us from reaching for our phones.

But this is not the goal; like mentioned before, social media is the platform for communication, and ultimately, for change and development. Stripping ourselves of it would do nobody any good.

Digital nudges have been around for quite some time now, only resurfacing once more as studies show an alarming increase in social media usage last year. Purohit and Holzer refer to this dilemma as “hyperconnectivity” in their study entitled Unhooked by Design: Scrolling Mindfully on Social Media by Automating Digital Nudges. According to them, digital nudges will not prevent users from scrolling through their feeds. Instead, it will create healthy reminders for people to become more mindful of their consumption.

While digital nudges are still concepts created within the minds of our researchers, we are left to our own devices. These addictions fester on the feeling of emptiness, particularly in such bleak times, so we must fill it to the brim with healthier habits. Practice control instead, lay down boundaries, enjoy connectivity in moderation, and admit that social media will always be part of our lives. Without it, how exactly do we get by? –Samantha G. Gutierrez