I Gave Up Mindless Scrolling for a Day — Here’s How It Went
It’s nearly impossible for me to go a weekday without screens — mostly because I work from home, from a computer, typing all day. But also because my phone is my main method of communication with loved ones: My partner lives across the city, my family lives across the country.
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So when I was challenged with going an entire day without screens, I had to be mindful about what kind of screen time I was realistically able to sacrifice. Of course, work items weren’t negotiable. But what about watching YouTube videos during downtime? (I’m a big fan of watching people clean and organize.) That could be nixed.
Other screen items I was willing to forgo for the day included any social media, Pinterest, Reddit, online window shopping, and anything else that could easily move into the mindless territory. That also included TV and reading the lifestyle section of the news on my phone. I wasn’t about to give up texting and FaceTime calls with my partner, my friends, or my family — I consider it valuable and life-giving. That being said, I’ll admit I accidentally messed up when I was sent a very sweet video showcasing the unlikely friendship between a deer and a dog.
Many professionals tout the numerous benefits of going without screens, without social media, and limiting mindless scrolling, even if it’s just for a day. In a study done during 2018-19 at a university, experts found that when participating students detoxed from social media, “most students reported a positive change in mood, reduced anxiety, and improved sleep during the immediate aftermath of the detoxification period.”
Since I don’t have many social media accounts, and don’t use the ones I have that often, my main objective was to decrease the amount of mindless scrolling that I do on other websites like Pinterest and Reddit. But I was hoping that I would still be able to reap some of those same benefits.
What I noticed when I gave up mindless scrolling for a day
The first thing that I really noticed was how frequently I used my phone or computer for mindless entertainment. I was regularly catching myself opening a tab or picking up my phone to do something that was not within the jurisdiction of the allowed screen time that I permitted myself.
Almost immediately, I noticed the impact that removing mindless entertainment had on my productivity levels. By 9:19 a.m., I got started on a non-urgent work task I had been avoiding for days. It wasn’t long before I made the connection that I frequently turn to this kind of screen time in order to procrastinate tasks that I am avoiding and don’t want to complete.
Once work was over and I didn’t have TV to zone out in front of, I looked around the house and started noticing little spots that needed cleaning: My coffee table was dingy and needed to be wiped down, my plants were starting to make a bit of a mess and that needed vacuuming, and my stovetop needed to be cleaned and polished. I also tidied, swept, and did some other little chores — and by the time I was sitting down for dinner, I was completely exhausted.
So after dinner, I called my partner, played with my roommate’s dog, and did some laundry. Before I knew it, I was ready to pass out. I couldn’t even believe I had managed to go the entire day without my regular screen time entertainment.
I didn’t notice a very big change in anxiety levels or improvement in my sleeping patterns — although, if I were to do the experiment for longer than a day, I wonder how it would have impacted these aspects of my daily life.
I don’t think that mindless entertainment on the computer or phone is inherently harmful. I’ll even admit that I was happy to enjoy some Pinterest scrolling the next morning. But in the days following the experiment, I was much more mindful about how frequently I turned to these vices for procrastination.
So even if someone has no intention of removing mindless scrolling from their daily habits altogether, I found it useful even just for a single day.