Are you Overscrolling?


Social media allows us to connect with friends and family like never before, but there are some drawbacks to something I call "overscrolling." Let me show you what I mean.

Suppose a drinking glass represents your ability to retain and process what you see on social media, and  water represents all the information "scrolling" across your timeline on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, etc. 

Scrolling through your feed isn't a bad thing. Think about how it helps you stay up on the latest news, find out how friends and family are doing, or sometimes see something in our world that needs to change.

At first, the information you see is beneficial. You learn about issues and connect with others. 

But over time, do you ever reach this point where you feel like nothing in the world is changing?

Do you feel exhausted, like you "just can't take any more of this"? 

Do you feel depressed scrolling through your feed that you sometimes look at the clock and feel guilty, like you should have been doing something else?

If so, you might be overscrolling.

Here's what happens: When you keep pouring water into the glass, eventually it begins to overflow. Sure you're taking in new information, but you're not retaining much of it, and what little you do retain comes at the cost of forgetting other information (the water splashing back out). 

Take if from someone who has memorized entire books word-for-word: Your brain can only retain so much information in a day.

Much like an athlete needs time to recover after a workout, your brain needs a chance to recover after a mental workout.

So what can you do to avoid over scrolling?

First, set a timer before you go on any social media platforms, say 15 minutes. (Even something as simple as giving yourself a time limit will give you a sense of control when the world feels like it's spinning out of control.) 

When the timer goes off, ask yourself if you're exhausted. Has what you've seen, watched, or read benefited you? Are you learning something new or creating a stronger connection with family and friends? 

That does not necessarily mean the content you scroll through makes you feel good—none of us felt "good" watching the video of George Floyd's murder. But we needed to see it. That video showed hundreds of thousands of people something they haven't seen before, and in response I started to see people having hard discussions, making public apologies, and recognizing societal blindspot. Overall, this did not make us feel "good", but it has largely brought us closer together. And that is ultimately quite beneficial.

Image from 9to5mac

Another technique is to us the Screen Time or Digital Wellbeing features on iOS and Android for tracking instead of just restricting. Instead of using it as a timer that locks you out after ___ minutes per day, use the data it collects to help you make better decisions. Example: Look at how many hours per week you spend on the social media category and ask yourself, "I only get 168 hours per week. Do I feel like my ___ hours on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter is benefitting me?" 

Last tip: When you overscroll, your brain is receiving thousands of words and millions of pixels in a matter of minutes, but where does it all go? Setup a way for you to easily "output" all that information. Start writing in a journal. Spend 5 hours per week getting involved in your local community. The key is to do something instead of simply reading something. All of these actions will help establish a sense of control in your life and eliminate helplessness.

The world needs healthy people, so take the steps to protect your mental health by avoiding overscrolling.