The advent of facebook, closely followed by instagram, saw the phenomenon known as scrolling invade our lives. Met with excitement, connecting with people worldwide soon became the addictive pull ensuring we ‘scrolled’ daily The ever growing thought of missing something important added to the lure.

Continual messaging via mobile phones, the speed of communicating through email, Zoom, and Skype, plus the ability to play a growing range of games on our computers, changed the way we connected. 

Amidst the fast paced evolution of all this technology, convincing us this was the way to meet our social needs, we actually missed the warning signs telling us that, in fact, we were very wrong! The increased prevalence of depression, OCD, anxiety, headaches, fear, eating disorders and more mentally related illnesses, may well have a proportion of their origins steeped deeply in the growing trend to scroll at all cost.

Unintentionally, social media platforms, as each are now termed, are contributing to the sad rise in our mental health statistics. Influencing current, past and future generations, ‘scrolling’ has become an addictive norm.

What is ‘scrolling’? It is the practise of endlessly flicking through facebook, instagram, messages on phones, and consistently checking for emails to view what our ‘friends’ have shared. Embedded between the posts are those adds which pop up enticing you to purchase their products. Not wishing to miss out on anything, we feel compelled to click on them.

‘Scrolling’ has progressed from the original practise of simply moving from one line of text on a screen to another, in all directions, to source required information for a specific purpose, to the mindless past time driven by the compulsion to do so. 

The thrill to connect with as many as we can across our globe and call them friends has impacted our ability to truthfully connect with meaning. Closing the gap between acquiring information and being able to deliver it with speed has removed anonymity. This has opened all of us up to being almost completely known by a staggering number of ‘others’.

With the growth of social media platforms came the ability to increase the roles played by comparison, bullying, enticing, advertising and all the tricks of the trade employed to influence people into believing the messages they gave. This has resulted in the emergence of a new wave of demeaning. The vulnerable, who take on the beliefs conveyed –  with nothing to challenge them – has impacted the mental development of people in disturbing ways not foreseen.

To understand, and address this change, closer examination of pre-social media and scrolling may be helpful.

So, what did this look like:

  • we communicated face to face
  • we had private lives and public lives, AND we decided what that looked like
  • we had total control over what information was shared about us, and with whom
  • guided by the adults around us we made informed decisions regarding who, when and where we connected with
  • without the need to scroll, we spent more time engaging in meaningful conversation
  • more time was given to activities which saw us move our bodies – either as an individual, or within groups
  • we did not feel the need to be in constant contact via at least one form of social media every minute of our waking day
  • we grew up less exposed to information we did not need at certain ages
  • social skills – what social skills? We use to know how to relate, social media has produced a generation of inept communicators reliant upon technology to do the conversing for them
  • much more – I am sure you are able to add to this short list

As a human race reliant upon connection for our mental well-being, pre-social media saw us nurturing this need through a healthy level of interaction. Scrolling has encouraged far too many to shut themselves away in isolation. Isolation sees exclusion from the real world and inclusion into a world where fantasy blurs the lines. What you read, see and ‘learn’ influences your view of how society apparently works. Next thing you know you are joining into the ‘gossip’ shared. You are believing the false images. You are under the spell of what I call ‘social media indoctrination’. The scrolling world you now belong to has replaced your real world. Your world is distorted; truth being lost to scrolling. Personalities are being defined by the black and white teachings of scrolling; we are turning into disconnected humans expecting our mental health to survive.

Without the nurturing of real connection the body responds. Bodies rely upon, no NEED, healthy human connection. The absence of such leaves the body naturally looking for a suitable replacement. Scrolling does not meet the need. Scrolling can not provide love and belonging, nor does it meet the need for personal power; the power we each deserve to have to say what we will, and won’t  accept. Instead of our opinions and choices in life being drawn from meaningful discussion with others in person, we rely on the inflated, concocted writings posted and shared. We give our power away to words typed on a screen by those we do not really know. Survival has come to depend upon how often we scroll in case we miss something, instead of nourishing and nurturing our survival via real life experiences. Fun is defined by the number of likes we get from posts we share. When did ‘likes’ replace realtime fun. Freedom – well, forget that! Freedom use to be choosing what to read, who to be friends with and how much time we gave to connecting. Freedom is now so tied to scrolling that in essence it is completely lost.

Let’s not forget the power of acceptance. Scrolling has tricked us into the idea that all of this waste of time is a form of acceptance. Acceptance is designed around likes, what you share and how often. Acceptance is defined by words manipulating you to believe their content, regardless of the one writing them. Our brains are subject to a whole new line of influence. Taking on the influence as truth, how are we meant to maintain some sort of reality? And this is why mental health numbers are on the rise. The loss of personal, face to face experiences to mindless scrolling using our fingers to do the walking and make our decisions has meant the absolute loss of meaningful human connection. Scrolling has become the new addiction. And just like alcohol, gambling, drugs and others, the day will arrive where therapy and relearning will be a necessity. We are calling out for reconnection; mental health statistics tell us this. If only we would listen.

The blame game of shelving reasons for mental health decline over to a list mildly connected is where we must begin. Acknowledging that mindless scrolling and the associated deterioration of social skills is largely impacting human minds must be addressed. The infiltration of distorted life views is creating a generation which actually does not know the difference between social connection and social disconnection.

We cannot lock ourselves away, endlessly scrolling, calling this connection, and not see a disturbing result. Returning society to one which interacts without the use of technology invading every second of the day is imperative. Creating a new approach to life where technology serves its intended purpose void of completely dominating our day MUST become the new wave of social acceptance for living.

Without a change of global focus toward caring about mental health, without education demanding a new approach, where the traps of technology are not taught, we can expect statistics to reflect the continued ‘head in the sand’ misunderstanding. How we achieve this is the topic for another blog. 

In the meantime, challenge your scrolling – are you scrolling your life away? Assess this practice against your mental health – mmmm!