Various authors and studies have likened willpower to a muscle. They have explained that it must be repeatedly practiced before it becomes stronger and the new habit second nature. In addition, willpower experiences fatigue. It may be easy to say no to that donut for breakfast when you’re trying to clean up your diet, but come evening, after a long day of work, you may grab that donut for dessert without a second thought. In my experience, the ability to resist the “scroll black hole” with social media can be much like eating that donut after dinner when I’m looking to unwind.
In 2016, I remarked to a friend that Facebook had the ability to negatively affect my day. I explained that I could be having a great day before logging on. Then, as I scrolled during a small pocket of free time, I would inevitably come across a post that was a total downer and it could affect my mood. My friend suggested I just delete the app from my phone. While it seems like an obvious solution now, at the time I had not considered it. I took the advice and have not looked back since. I can still log on through a computer and that way have control over what used to be an unproductive habit.
The posts I found most upsetting on Facebook were usually shares of jarring news headlines and articles. At the time, Instagram was a place of simple photos. It allowed me to still feel connected to the current events in the lives of family and friends without the negative interruptions. A few months ago, I realized that Instagram was no longer having a positive influence on my days, and as a result, it is no longer on my phone. It’s not that I want to ignore the news; it was just that I did not want my news consumption to happen over social media.
Certainly, there are many ways to still enjoy social media. I realize that you may be reading this post because you found it posted on one of those very platforms. I still have my accounts and periodically check in on my computer. I simply discovered that I was previously not willing to use my energy and focus to strengthen that willpower, so as an alternative I just made the habit inconvenient.
I cannot say I have developed any remarkable replacement habits for those pockets of down time; in fact, I am not entirely sure what I do during those moments now. All I do know is that I’m not scrolling into a black hole, and I’m happier because of it.
Erin Massey is the product development manager at Prairie Farms, a farmer-owned cooperative based in Edwardsville, Illinois. She is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the development process, from concept to commercialization. Erin grew up on a Florida dairy farm and has a deep-rooted passion to invigorate the dairy industry. Erin earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Florida. Her personal mantra is "Be Bold."