Friday 13 September 2019

Thoughts on scrolling for #ScrollFreeSeptember

With Scroll Free September 2019 now well under way, I thought I'd put down some of my thoughts about what scrolling is to me, and how I'm attempting to stop.

How do I define scrolling?

For me, scrolling isn't all time spent on social media. It's the time that comes after I've checked on what I need to, and yet I continue to scroll through the updates. It's when I find myself at a loose end around the house and I pick up the phone out of boredom or habit. It's when I'm doing something else, like watching a television show or reading a book, and catch sight of my phone and feel the urge pick it up to see if I'm missing out on anything.

What are my scrolling habits?

I find myself scrolling first thing in the morning and last thing at night. While I'm waiting in the car at school pick up time, while dinner is cooking or while I'm watching a swimming lesson. Also when I'm putting off something that I don't want to do, or I become distracted from something else that I'm doing. Most of this scrolling takes place on my phone, although some on my desktop PC as that's where I sit to do my work and it's so easy to just open another window.

Which apps do I scroll?

Most of my scrolling time is spent on Facebook. As well as the news feed, which is mainly filled with family and friends, I'm a member in lots of groups, some of them very active, so there is always something new to see. When I've exhausted Facebook I turn to Twitter with it's endless feed, and when that bores me I'll pop over to the BBC News app. I also use Instagram, although that tends to be on the desktop as I find it easier to leave comments with a keyboard, and I find it easier to limit my time as I'm more satisfied when sucked in by words than by images.

What do I gain by scrolling?

I feel that I do gain from spending time scrolling through social media. I enjoy reading through Facebook and seeing what other people have been up do - I like to see other people out and about doing interesting and exciting things. I get inspiration from Facebook craft groups, and I find out useful information about my other interests, like blogging, parenting and cruising.

On Twitter I find lots of links to blog posts that I want to read, as well as trending topics. I like to keep up to date with the news, and find that the BBC News app has a good selection of articles alongside longer reads on topics that interest me.

Photo credit Yura Fresh via Unsplash

What do I lose by scrolling?

Of course I lose time. It's very easy to get sucked in to reading just one more thing, and before you know it lots of time has gone by. I lose the time that I could spend in having a quick tidy up, working on a craft project, or spending time helping the children with something.

How do I feel afterwards?

Sometimes if I feel like I've spent too long scrolling in a day it's almost like a hangover. Especially if I've been on my phone late at night which sometimes happens when my husband is away. I inevitably feel a sense of wasted time that I don't get from reading a book or watching a television show.

What would happen if I stopped scrolling?

I always think that if I spend less time on Facebook then I'd start to lose touch with what is going on. But the truth is that if I do take a break from Facebook it's very easy to catch up with what I've missed. For example, you can read a whole group thread about a topic all at once rather than reading it over and over again as new comments are added.

What does scrolling replace?

I can't remember very well what I used to do before phones and social media became a thing, when I was a teenager or student for instance. I did use to spend longer talking on the phone and I was in the habit of carrying a book around with me, whether that was for a train journey or a waiting room. I did spend quite a bit of time as a teenager playing computer games like Civilisation or Tetris which perhaps satisfied the urge in my brain to do something mind numbing.

I remember when I first started living with my husband back in the early 00's he used to spend a significant portion of the evening scrolling aimlessly through the different television channels included in our cable subscription. I read somewhere that this was the modern equivalent of staring in to the campfire at the end of a long day out hunting and foraging and I think that there is something in this theory, with the television now being replaced by the smartphone.

What have I done to prevent scrolling which works?

Scrolling is a habit, and it's hard to break. I made a good effort during Scroll Free September last year, but of course the bad habits crept back. But here are some of the things that I'm trying to do to help:

* Out of sight, out of mind. I try to keep my phone in a separate room, or if it needs to be with me I turn it face down so I can't see the screen, or even better I place something else over it like a book so I can't see it. It sounds a bit silly but it does work!

* I don't post very much on social media, so I don't need to keep going back and checking for updates and replies to my comments or tweets.

* I attempt to keep my scrolling limited to particular times. For example having a quick catch up with Facebook while I eat my lunch or while I take a break, with a set time limit.

* I'm a big fan of timers. I find that timers are a brilliant way of helping with procrastination, and I don't use them nearly enough. If I have set myself a timer, even if just for 20 minutes, it's much easier to be accountable and actually do something productive during that time, whether it's writing a blog post or cleaning the kitchen. It really helps me to focus and to see how much I can achieve in a short space of time as well as getting me in the mood to continue the task once the timer has stopped.

* I like to have a hobby available with easy access that I can work on for a short period of time at once. Reading is ideal as I can read a few pages at a time, and so I always have a book or two on the go. I also like to have a jigsaw out that I can turn to for a few minutes.

* I also have a longer project on the go, like a long term craft project, that gives a goal to work towards and a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when it's complete. Currently it's my Persian Tiles blanket, and I have a deadline in mind which I'm working towards.

I will readily admit that I'm not perfect and I don't stick to Scroll Free September absolutely, but I really do feel that I've made some changes this month which I hope to carry forward.

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