Social Media. We all have it. It is pretty much inescapable in this day and age. It’s a way to connect with friends, discover new interests and just have fun. But it can also be a lot more than that. If you are not careful, the blaring adverts and constant stream of new entertainment can become addicting and overwhelming. It can lead to extremely late nights lost to the mindless consumption of perfectly angled photos and precisely timed videos, designed to feed the hunger for content. This leads to exhaustion and mental health issues, and my generation of teenagers can forget there is a life outside of the overwhelming void that is the internet.

Research conducted by Goria Mark, an Informatics professor at the University of California, has also found a significant decrease in the attention span of people using technology in the last few years, with an average attention span of 2.5 minutes in the early 2000s being decreased to just 47 seconds in recent years! This can possibly be a consequence of the huge advancements in technology in the last 20 years, leading to the development of vast amounts of short form content found online that can become so addictive.

So, what can we do ourselves to escape the doom scroll to focus more on the real world and what really matters?

Firstly, we can look at how much time we have really spent online. We can look at screen time and see patterns throughout the day, week, and month. Then, with this, we can try and set time limits, or even schedule sections of the day where we turn our phone off, put it in a draw, and get the work we have been putting off done. Scrolling is a classic form of procrastination, a way to put off tasks that seem intimidating or scary, working as a form of temporary relaxation and escapism. Limiting it a little more day by day can help us to become less attached to our phones, less distracted, and even more at peace with ourselves. This helps to decrease procrastination due to fear or intimidation as our minds are more concentrated and not as overly stimulated.

One app I have found very useful to help discipline my procrastination and screentime is called ‘Forest’. This app uses the pomodoro method of studying to help you maintain a consistent study pattern, with longer focus times and short breaks at consistent intervals. You will see a timer counting down each block of 10-40 minutes of focus time whilst growing a virtual tree at the same time on the screen. If you click out of the app and become distracted, the tree you are growing will die and the timer will reset! The twist to the app is that for every tree that you complete growing in each study block, Forest will plant a real tree, addressing the climate crisis and helping poverty-stricken farmers across Africa by revitalising their land! I think this is a great way to motivate ourselves to complete a period of study time and prevent ourselves from being distracted by the loud noise of the internet.

Another thing we can do to reduce screentime and prevent the mindless scrolling is to explore new hobbies. You could try going for a walk with no music and just the sounds of the environment around you, you could try learning a new instrument to be able to play your favourite song, you could even start reading all of those books you once wrote on a long list but never got round to reading. The list is endless!

There are so many things that can help you to get off your phone and out of your head. When we stop distracting ourselves from our own lives, we can take charge, and find so much wealth in things we once took for granted. Just don’t be afraid to try out something new, we all start from somewhere, and who knows, that little thing could become something a lot greater.