Beyond the screen: Breaking free from the scrolling syndrome

“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality, our best work is done by keeping things out.” ― C.S. Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters”

A few years ago I made a conscious effort to reflect on whether I was using my phone as a tool to help me grow closer to the Lord or if I was using it to pass the time. I started tracking some of my daily social media use and quickly realized that the simplest, most innocent reasons for checking social media would often pull me into a black hole of endless scrolling. Between current news (which, to be honest, often leaves me with more questions and new fears) and beautifully curated content, I found that it is far too easy to compare myself to others while also feeding existing anxiety.

A virtual wonderland

“For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.” ― C.S. Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters”

Time flies when you’re having fun, they say, but on social media, time vanishes when you’re mindlessly scrolling through your timeline. Before you know it, you’ve spent an entire afternoon lost in the virtual wonderland. It’s not just the browsing that takes up time; it’s the addictive nature of these platforms that keeps us hooked. There is an urge to constantly check for updates, respond to messages and keep up with the latest trends.

Before his ascension, Christ affirmed that the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 672). Often, I have to ask myself: What are you watching on your screen? Is it something that encourages you, or does it feel like you are losing joy?

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And of course, this examination is not limited to any one app. While I’m most sucked into TikTok, I also find myself mindlessly turning to Instagram. It’s fun to see family and friends post about their life, blogs promoting the newest DIY project (which I’m a sucker for), or retail stores (in my case, especially thrift shops!). But on the flip side, some accounts and posts can be destructive — enabling us to compare our lives to others or be a source of gossip and negativity.

Pressure for perfection

“Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility.” ― C.S. Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters”

We’re bombarded with carefully curated feeds filled with seemingly flawless lives, picturesque vacations, mouth-watering meals and impossibly flawless selfies. It’s true, comparison is the thief of joy. As a former content creator, there was a lot of pressure for perfection. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the pressure to gain likes, followers and validation, but often it drives us to seek external approval for our self-worth. I know what that’s like and how it affects the simple joy of creating content to share with others.

When every post does not have remarkable participation, it’s easy to slip into the negative, thinking that you’ve failed, especially if you are comparing yourself to others or searching for affirmation. Friend, numbers don’t define your success, and they shouldn’t drive your creativity either. We forget that everyone has their struggles and that what we see on social media is just a fraction of the whole picture.

Friendships take a hit

“The things that we love tell us what we are.” ― St. Thomas Aquinas

We’ve all been there — scrolling through our feeds, seeing updates about friends’ lives, and feeling like we’re in the loop. But when was the last time we actually had a heartfelt, face-to-face conversation?

The ease of sending a quick message or leaving a comment can create a false sense of closeness. We might feel like we’re maintaining our friendships, but in reality, we might be missing out on deeper in-person connections. Virtual interactions lack the nuances of body language, tone and shared moments that make friendships truly special. Emojis can’t replace a warm hug, and a string of texts can’t capture the joy of hearing your friend’s genuine laughter.

Schedule coffee dates and plan hangouts, because while social media is great, nothing beats the magic of genuine, in-person connections.

A time of fasting

“Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” — Psalm 90:12

In the midst of our busy lives, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, racing against the clock without truly appreciating the moments we’re given. Psalm 90 reminds us to pause, reflect and consider the fleeting nature of time. We’re reminded that life is a precious gift, not an endless supply. When we approach our days with this intention, we can invest our lives in meaningful connections, personal growth and acts of kindness.

What’s really important to you? Are you prioritizing time with God? Or maybe it’s just checking out the latest animal videos as soon as the alarm goes off … and I’m totally guilty of this! Social media has its charms; staying connected with friends, sharing funny moments and discovering new interests are all part of the package. But friends, balance is key, and with a little mindfulness, we can enjoy the best of both worlds without falling into the time-consuming scrolling syndrome of social media.

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