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Meet the Woman that Can’t Stop Mindlessly Scrolling! | My Silly Addiction

Unsuccessfully attempting a digital detox so you don’t have to

Nancy Guo

Artwork: Michelle Tiang

My name is Nancy, I’m 22 years old, and I’m addicted to mindlessly scrolling. Okay, addiction is probably too strong of a word to describe my daily evening scroll on the couch, where I kill a few brain cells with chipmunk-ified Tik Tok audios and by tapping “not interested” on alpha bro podcasters giving unsolicited “rizz” tips. But with the inundation of dopamine and digital detoxes, promoted by self-improvement gurus that claim you can “RESET YOUR BRAIN” and “TAKE BACK CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE”, sometimes I’m left wondering if mindless scrolling is really that bad for you.

Sure, bingeing short-form content is arguably not the most productive use of our time. It’s probably also fucked up our attention spans, mental health, perceptions of success, and beauty standards for good. But how else am I supposed to have my scheduled hour (or hours on a bad day) of no thoughts, head empty? Is it really healthier to be present with your inner monologue every waking hour, without the comfort of external noise to quieten the intrusive thoughts and delusional made-up scenarios?

As unpleasant as a digital detox sounds, I was curious to see if the self-help gurus were actually on to something. According to their logic, stimuli like social media, gaming, and television have messed with our brains’ reward pathways. To reduce our dependence on these stimuli for dopamine and to improve our overall wellbeing, temporary “fasts” are encouraged to “reset” our reward systems, and achieve inner peace or whatever.

In terms of how to actually carry out a digital detox, the methods range from one extreme to another. Some self-improvement gurus suggest going hard and cutting out every form of online communication except for maybe email (yeah I’m good, thanks), while others suggested banning all pleasurable digital things, like Spotify (there ain’t no way I’m voluntarily raw dogging my own thoughts).

To avoid subjecting myself to medieval torture for three days, I chickened out and decided to go on easy mode—aka just cutting out Netflix, deleting Tik Tok, and limiting social media beyond sending and replying to messages. Sounds easy enough right?

Artwork: Michelle Tiang

Day One

Although I thought I was ready to “TRICK MY BRAIN” into “MAXIMISING PRODUCTIVITY,” I failed to realise that my habit of waking up and instantly checking my phone (how else am I meant to turn off my 20, 1-minute apart alarms?) was kinda against the spirit of the digital detox. So, clearly not off to a great start. Thankfully, I redeemed myself by getting out of bed quickly and bypassing the usual scroll-and-rot routine that always leaves me perplexed as to how I’m always annoyingly ten minutes late to everything. Hey, maybe this digital detox could kick two bad habits with one stone?

Throughout the day, I didn’t find myself reaching for my phone much since it’s usually tumbling around the bottom of my bag among the omnipresent sea of receipts—out of sight, out of mind.

But by the time the evening rolled around and I’d thrown myself onto my bed, ready to enter my

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory grandparents era, the itch had returned.

Even though I had deleted Tik Tok off my phone, I could feel my finger instinctively hovering to the spot on my home screen that the app had previously vacated. Fuck, what happened to proving to the Boomers that not every Gen Z is in a co-dependent relationship with their phone? What happened to having a single ounce of self-control or self-respect?

While the rational part of my brain told me to go for a walk instead of scrolling into oblivion, its irrational and impulsive counterpart won and I found myself opening up YouTube as a replacement. Does this count as cheating? Most definitely, but I justified my actions by convincing myself that because the video essay I watched was educational, it was “miles different” from scrolling through those awfully unfunny, 360p-quality Instagram reels.

Day Two

I clearly didn’t learn my lesson from the previous day because I started my day by checking my phone instantly again, whoops. In my defence, I was too groggy to even remember that I’d committed myself to this dumb digital detox thing.

Didn’t end up going on my phone much during the day, which is a win I will happily take. However, you’d be mistaken to credit my sudden burst of discipline to my unwavering dedication to self-improvement—I’m always low on mobile data because I refuse to pay One NZ more than $15 a month. It turns out that being a cheapskate, and hating your mobile service provider, is a rather effective deterrent against mindless scrolling.

Everything was going swimmingly great until it got to bedtime, where external distractions like people and completing life’s side-quests, like work and uni, were no longer present. If I wasn’t feeling so antsy, I’d probably have no trouble whipping out my Kindle and reading, which as far as I’m aware constitutes as a self-help guru approved activity, even though I was in the middle of a slightly-cringey, YA romance novel, and not Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now. But the ooh-ooh-ah-ah, primitive monkey part of my brain won and I succumbed to mindlessly scrolling on YouTube Shorts. Even though I usually have next to no concept of shame, I have to admit that this was a new low. Instagram Reels are bad enough, but YouTube Shorts?? An absolute abomination.

Artwork: Michelle Tiang

Day Three

Going on YouTube Shorts for longer than I’d like to admit definitely decimated a good chunk of my prefrontal cortex, so I didn’t even bat an eye when I woke up and decided to rot in my bed doing fuck-all on my phone. By the time I got home, I was ready to surrender and wave the white flag. One:Nil to Mark Zuckerberg’s sticky algorithms.

Weirdly, I didn’t even feel guilty for tossing the digital detox challenge straight out the window. Did numbing my brain with pointless, short-form content make me feel good? Probably not, but I also didn’t exactly feel like a new woman on the days I was more successful with sticking to the challenge.

Come to think of it, is there actually anyone under the age of 50 who doesn’t sometimes zombie scroll for the sake of it? Even the Boomers who don’t know how to unlock an iPhone without tech support still schedule in a few brain empty hours, like watching reruns of The Chase for hours on end.

Maybe mindless scrolling isn’t that terrible of a vice if it isn’t harming your mental health, or reducing your quality of life. Being alive is exhausting enough, perhaps it’s time to cut ourselves some slack and stop feeling guilty for scrolling away an hour or two.