Why do we keep scrolling?

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Mindless. Monotonous. We keep scrolling, trapped in the social media feeds just as the platforms intend.

We’ve become trained to click into these social media apps when we’re bored. We worry that we’re missing out, feel the need to check these apps to make sure we haven’t missed anything. We feel compelled to like photos, status, RT, share. Whether or not it’s that interesting or pertinent or falls in line with what we want to talk about. We fall into the inane debates over blue and black or white and gold dresses or Yanny versus Laurel. We post our own photos, we check notifications, we tweet, we post stories, we snapchat.

Why do we get addicted to social media?

Humans have an innate need to connect and interact with others. We are naturally tribal and now that we live less closely intertwined than our ancestors, social media has evolved to fill that need to always be ‘connected’ with one another.

As humans we also have the need for validation. Validation that we belong, validation that those around us care. The needs to know and be known, to understand and be understood.

So naturally, now that we have the internet and social media, it’s easy to try and fill those needs online. We post what’s going on in our lives in an effort to be known. We post about our political views because we want to be understood. We want to be in a ‘tribe’ with those that are like us, those that share similar values and beliefs and have similar understanding about the world and how it should or shouldn’t work.

We also have a fear of missing out. We are afraid that if we don’t log on, if we don’t check, we’ll miss something. We won’t see that meme that everyone was talking about, we won’t get the jokes when people reference it later.

So what? Who cares if we’re addicted?

The issue with this constant scrolling, the addiction to social media, is that it can severely affect our mental health. There have been numerous studies that have found negative effects on our mental health, such as the study that found that Facebook usage is linked to depressive symptoms.

How does it affect our mental health?

Social media makes it incredibly easy to compare ourselves to others. And while the comparison is not always a negative thing, it’s a dangerous game to compare ourselves to what we see on social media. Social media is a curated view of someone’s life in most cases; it’s a highlight real. Social media lends itself to use making upward or downward judgments, the feeling that we are either better or worse off than our friends. But both types of comparison have been found to make us feel worse.

We also get caught up in thinking that we’re still getting the same level of connection from social media that we do from connections in person. We get caught up in thinking that we know what’s truly going on with someone when we see them posting on social media when we DM them on Instagram. But just because we see what they’re posting, just because we like it, doesn’t mean that we’re truly connecting with them. A meaningful connection needs mutuality, eye contact, and more. There isn’t really a replacement for true, in-person connection.

But I like social media! Now what?

All of this isn’t to say that there isn’t any benefit to social media. It allows us to keep in contact with family and friends that live in other cities and countries. Or maybe it has helped you reconnect with someone you lost touch with years or even decades back.

So where do we go from here?

The first step is always recognizing that social media is not real life. Although it can be hard, try not to compare yourself to what you see of others lives. Remember that social media is a curated version of their life, and it’s mostly just a highlight reel.

Feeling brave? Try taking a break. If it’s not your job to be on social media or run various accounts, try taking a break. Delete the apps off your phone and take time to log off. You don’t have to swear to stay off forever; whether it’s a few days or a few weeks, just write down and notice how you feel without it.

If you’re not ready to log off, try setting some limits around how and when you use it. Try setting time limits for how long you can spend on the sites per day. Set rules for when you’re allowed to log on, and try and stick to them.

All in all, just remember, social media is not real life.