Accidentally I found a hack to stop mindlessly scrolling my phone and feel compelled to share it.
It is said that about 40% of our behavior happens on automatic pilot. For example you can easily hold a conversation while you walk, because moving your legs happens on autopilot. Or that you can brush your teeth while listening to an audiobook, because the movement of brushing your teeth doesn’t require much thought anymore.
Or when, almost without deliberately deciding to do so, you automatically grab your phone, unlock it and start scrolling. Even typing in your password has become an automatized movement. Before you know it you have lost 10 minutes of your life. You realize that aimlessly scrolling is not what you intended to do and put away the phone to continue on what you really planned. But the 10 minutes (or thirty) are non-refundable.
For me, this usually happens when there is a slight feeling of boredom or unsureness. A little moment in between tasks, a small gap of time where you should be refocusing on the next thing you want to do. Or when there is a task that you have been putting off like a difficult e-mail. But mostly when there is a small window of undedicated available time. It is like my mind grabs on to a busy activity. My favorite apps are specifically designed to become mindless habits.
Accidentally I found a hack to stop this from happening and snap out of automatic zombie-mode.
I used my phone as a coaster for a bottle of water I was drinking. ( When taking this picture, I had piled up some more random objects that were at hand; a cup, a lipstick, a concealer, a candle holder.) So when that moment came, the open time gap, there was a physical barrier in place that interrupted the habitual phone-grabbing-unlocking-scrolling movement. With my other hand I had to remove the bottle first. It completely threw off the subconscious-routine and forced my mind into a deliberate (instead of automatic) state. It gave me a split second to consciously think about what I was doing. And it made me realize that I did not even want or was planning to grab my phone. Like why – what for, WHY was I grabbing my phone?
It was an epiphany and a feeling of freedom followed by a little anger from the realization of how manipulated our behavior is. How our attention is stolen. It felt like infringement of my free will. I realized how much control these apps have, even on the physical movement of my arm. Don’t get me wrong, I love instagram. I think it is a magic and creative place – however, I want to experience it in a mindful way and this was a dopamine-loop that I was trapped in. (I have a little urge to even go check on my phone right now, because I uploaded a pic on Instagram about 30 minutes ago. Thanks for the heart emoji’s guys, they release little shots of dopamine into my bloodstream.)
So coming back to the way to interrupt this behavior. Put in place a physical barrier, or more – pile it up baby. Build a tower if you need to. Or better said put in place more steps, an extra-secury-check if you will, for these apps to access your mind and precious attention. And when you are tearing down that tower, it will have to be deliberately, off the automatic pilot, because you chose to check on a specific app, you want to send a message to a friend or need to answer a certain e-mail. Not because the dopamine loop that Facebook Inc. has installed in your subconsiousness.