How To Stop Scrolling

At this point, we are all addicts.

We are addicted to our screens. Just the least bit of idle time, and we reach for our phones. It doesn’t even register anymore. We scroll on auto-pilot.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Learn how to stop scrolling, what three approaches you can use, and why you must find an accountability partner to succeed.

Is Scrolling Really That Big of a Deal?

Many people marginalize their social media addiction. They think to themselves, “Well, everybody around me is constantly staring at their phones, too. So, it can’t be that bad.” Hence, they keep scrolling.

I am telling you — that is exactly what you should be worried about, the fact that social media addiction is so widespread.

It is the ultimate fraud — if the dealers can convince everybody that they must consume a certain drug, it stops being a drug. If everybody is an addict, nobody is an addict.

With cocaine or heroin, there is no discussion — if you can’t live without these substances, you are an addict. But if you have the same withdrawal symptoms when someone takes away your phone, nobody cares — because they can’t live without their phones either.

We are a bunch of addicts reassuring each other we are not addicts.

Now, people will say that I am being overdramatic. They will point at junkies dying homeless in back alleys and say, “How can you compare this?” But there are plenty of functional alcoholics, cokeheads, and even smackheads. Some of them never miss a day of work. Some of them make it to 90.

On the flip side, I have known severe social media addicts who cannot function at all. They stop caring about everything — their health, relationships, and jobs. They are as dysfunctional as the worst of druggies.

So yes, it is a major problem. You need to learn how to stop scrolling, or, at the very least, you won’t live up to your potential. At worst, you will risk your life falling apart.

Why Do We Fall for It?

There are two reasons why we are suckers for doom scrolling — one rooted in biology and one rooted in modern life.


We are hardwired for gossip. Back when we were living in tribes, it was essential to know which way the wind was blowing; it increased your chances of survival and procreation. If you knew who the new, emerging leader of the tribe was going to be, you could buddy up to them. If you knew someone was sexually available again, you could court them first.

We might not live in 150-people tribes anymore, but our brains are still the same. They are still optimized for that environment. That is why we fall for social media so hard — it plays into our primal programming.

Digital Escapism

The other reason why social media is so addictive is the modern misery we find ourselves in. We were not meant to wake up to an alarm every morning, commute for an hour, and then sit in a gray cubicle for 8 hours straight, getting verbally and mentally abused by our boss.

We might look down on the last remaining tribesmen as primitives, but the truth is, they got the better deal. They are living in alignment with their genetic makeup. Depression is our problem, not that of hunter-gatherers.

This is why we are glued to our screens — to forget about the bleak, boring lives we live. For a short while, the quick dopamine hits we get on Instagram or TikTok make us feel alive. It’s a form of digital escapism.

4 Negative Effects of Scrolling

Mindless scrolling is often marginalized as some mild self-indulgence. But it is not. It really will drastically reduce your quality of life. 

1. Compulsive Comparing

When you consume a lot of social media, you inevitably end up comparing yourself. You look at the seemingly perfect lives of others on Instagram and ask yourself where you went wrong.

Never mind that most of these accounts are highly curated. We might understand that intellectually, but emotionally, it still pulls us down. We can’t help but feel inferior.

2. Bad Sleep

Scrolling messes up your sleep. That is for two reasons — blue light exposure and dopamine hits.

When you look at screens right before you go to bed, you unhinge your circadian rhythm. Because of the blue light emanated by the screen, your body thinks it is still daytime. It will be harder to fall asleep and enter deep, restoring sleep phases.

On top of that, you have the dopamine hits. Consuming social media is designed to emotionally arouse you when you should be getting ready to wind down. This will further reduce the quality of your sleep.

3. Unfulfilled Goals

If you spend hours each day doom-scrolling TikTok, you won’t get much else done. It is hard enough to realize your goals without social media. But when you are addicted to screens, you don’t stand a chance.

Of all the negatives on this list, this is the one that most people will dismiss the easiest. But in truth, it’s the one with the biggest negative impact.

Think about it. If you waste 2–3 hours each day, that is 17.5 hours per week. If you used that time every week to build your passion business, in 2–3 years from now, you could quit your job. If you used that time to work out and eat right, in 2–3 years from now, you would look like a fitness model. If you used that time to talk to attractive strangers, in 2–3 years from now, you’d be drowning in sexual options.

Social media is the dream killer. It keeps you fantasizing about the perfect life, while you let all the opportunities pass by.

4. Worse Relationships

People used to meet up for dinner and interact with each other. As a result, they were at least decent at it.

Today, people meet up to stare at their smartphones together. And it shows. You don’t improve your social skills by staring at your smartphone. You become socially handicapped.

This is not some abstract lamenting. The losses to you are real. You won’t win at job interviews. You’ll get fewer clients for your business. You’ll struggle with making friends. You’ll have fewer sexual options. You won’t get an upgrade at the hotel you are staying.

Social media is a misnomer. It makes you antisocial, not more social.

7 Signs That You Have a Problem

Here are X telltale signs that you have an internet addiction.

1. You Compulsively Check Your Phone

If you can’t help but take out your phone every couple of minutes, you are deep into addiction territory.

2. You Have Withdrawal Symptoms

If for some reason, you cannot check your phone — maybe because of a technical problem — you experience severe withdrawal symptoms. You become anxious. You can’t focus anymore. You get irritable. All the signs that you have seen in other junkies.

3. You Spent Hours Each Day on Social Media

If you check your social media for 5 minutes a day, you obviously don’t have a problem. That’s the equivalent of somebody having a glass of wine once a week. Nothing to worry about.

But if we are talking half an hour each day, that’s more like you need that glass of wine every night. An hour or two each? You drink that whole bottle each night. It’s official, you have a problem.

4. You Don’t Get Much Done

Interestingly, almost all social media addicts believe that they are spending much less time scrolling than they actually do. But what they do realize is how little they are getting done. Another day they didn’t study. Another day that sales presentation didn’t get done.

If you catch yourself saying things like, “There is never enough time,” or “I don’t know where the hours went,” chances are, you have a social media problem.

5. You Act Without Regard for Other People

Many social media addicts tend to behave asocially. Instead of talking to your family and friends, you keep checking your Twitter. Instead of charming your date, you keep checking the news.

6. You Are in Denial

Like all addicts, social media addicts are prone to denial. When confronted with their online addiction, they will downplay it or even lie about it. For example, when a friend asks, you might lie about how many hours you spend scrolling today. “It was only an hour or so” — when it was really a five-hour binge session.

7. You Use It as a Cope Out

When you feel bored, you reach for your phone. When you feel sad, you reach for your phone. When you feel horney, you reach for your phone.

Instead of dealing with the problem in the real world, you resort to this alternative online reality. It’s a cope out.

How To Stop Scrolling — A Game Plan

You must learn how to stop scrolling. Here is the game plan that you’ll need.

1. Admit the Problem

The biggest problem with social media addiction is admitting that you have a problem.

Remember — the ingenious move was to make this addiction universal. The social media “dealers” managed to get virtually all of us addicted. And if we are all addicted, then nobody is addicted. It makes selling their product that much easier.

You must be different. You cannot go by what others do. Just because everybody else is staring at their phones nonstop doesn’t mean it is okay to do so. It is in fact highly self-destructive.

Admit that you have a real problem. Then set to resolving it.

2. Track Your Baseline

To get a realistic idea of how addicted you are, you must track your usage. Don’t go with your subjective feelings about your usage — those are highly misleading. You must get hard data.

In the past, you would have to get a third-party app to track your time spent scrolling. But now both newer Apple and Android phones have these inbuilt functionalities. With Apple phones, check out the “Screen Time” setting; with Android phones, check out the “Digital Wellbeing” setting. Both essentially let you know how long exactly you have been using certain apps on your phone.

Here is an important caveat. With both solutions, the data set is not very large. As of the time of this writing, the Android option goes back 4 weeks, while Apple only saves your usage data for the last 7 days. Since it will typically take you quite a bit longer to shake your social media addiction, you should track your usage time in a separate Excel or Google Sheets file. This way, you can observe trends over the course of months or even years.

Simply make it a daily habit at the end of each day to note down your usage for each of your social media apps in that spreadsheet. It only takes 1 to 2 minutes, but it will make a big difference. Not only will you get better, larger data sets. The simple act of writing these numbers down will heighten your awareness. You will be less blind to your own addictive behaviors.

3. Try Milder Remedies

Not everybody is a hardcore social media addict. If you diligently tracked your usage for several weeks (like we just talked about), and it turns out you only spend an average of 30 minutes to 1 hour per day on social media, you are still an addict. But you are not a hardcore abuser. Unlike those, you probably won’t have to resort to radical measures to get your life back under control. Simply implementing some of the following “milder” methods might do the trick.

a) Turn Off Notifications

There are several variations of this.

You can turn off your sound notifications, and only get visual notifications. This will not immediately make you grab your phone as soon as a new message or status update comes in. Instead, you will “batch check” all your notifications the next time you look at your screen. You become somewhat less reactive to the device.

Or you can turn your notifications off altogether (both sound and visual reminders). Now, there is no incentive for you to react to what the device is telling you at all. You only check the apps when you feel like checking them. For a relatively mature user, this could be a solution.

b) Delete Apps From the Start Screen

You can delete the app from your start screen so that you can’t select it straight away. This way, you might not check it as often, as you have to swipe first.

You can also place the app inside a folder, which will require an additional tap and therefore increase activation energy.

However, this only makes sense if you deactivate notifications, specifically in the status bar of your phone. Otherwise, you can just click directly through.

c) Set a Timer

Apple and Android both allow you to set a timer for certain apps. For example, you could set your Instagram app to one hour of maximum daily usage. After this, the app gets paused. However, this really only works as a reminder that you have reached your allotted time limit. You can easily unpause the app inside the settings and keep using it. Hence, why I view it as a mild method to reduce your social media time. There are no real consequences here.

d) Turn on Grayscale Mode

Both Apple and Android phones offer a grayscale mode. You can set your phone to gray out your display after a certain hour. Since social media apps make use of lots of bright colors, it tends to reduce their appeal. It’s like watching the latest blockbuster movie in black and white — at some point, you turn the TV off since it’s not the same experience.

e) Stick With One Device

Here, you only allow yourself to install your social media apps on one device, typically one that is less accessible. So, for example, you have all your social media apps installed on your tablet, but not your phone. Since you usually don’t carry your tablet with you anywhere you go, this will result in less scrolling. For some people, this will already do the trick. They won’t instinctively reach for their phone anymore while on the subway or waiting at the check-out.

f) “Misplace” Your Phone

At night before you go to bed, place your phone in another room. This will make it more difficult for you to check your phone first thing in the morning. You first have to get up, walk to the other room, and get your phone. Many mornings, you might be too lazy to do so. That’s a good thing. By increasing the activation energy, you have tricked yourself into using your phone slightly less.

Throughout all of this, keep tracking in your spreadsheet. If your usage goes down, great. But if these milder measures don’t do the trick, we need to escalate one step further. We need to do a full-blown social media reset. Realistically, this is where most people reading this article need to start.

4. Choose Your Approach

Now I am talking to people who cannot stop scrolling. Their average daily social media usage will be north of two hours each day, up to 10+ hours. These are the hardcore addicts. They have little or no control over their usage anymore.

There are three approaches to overcoming any addiction. You can a) go cold turkey, b) gradually wean yourself off, or c) use a contained approach.

Each approach has its merits and its disadvantages.

a) The Cold Turkey Approach

Here, you completely stop using social media from one day to the next. This is the hardest one to pull off. It requires a lot of willpower in the beginning before it starts to get easier. The upside — you will overcome your addiction the quickest. For most people after 4 to 6 weeks or so, they will no longer experience the withdrawal symptoms they experienced before.

But for this to work, you need to be in a unique space. You need to have few if any other commitments going on during that time. Essentially, you need to create your own private rehab facility at home for a month or so.

So, if you are super-stressed out at work right now or going through a relationship crisis, don’t expect to successfully shake your social media addiction at the same time. It is just too much at the same time. In this case, choose the gradual approach.

b) The Gradual Approach

With the gradual approach, you slowly, carefully wean yourself off your social addiction. You do so by implementing certain daily habits. For example, you start with not checking your phone for the first 30 minutes after waking up. Once that starts to feel easy, you increase to 45 minutes, then an hour. And so on. Eventually, you arrive at a point where you don’t need to check your social media at all anymore.

The upside of the gradual approach is it’s easier to implement in an already busy life. You are free to start as low as you want to. If all you can do is not check your phone for five minutes after waking up, that’s your starting point. Keep building from there.

The downside it takes much longer to become addiction-free than with the the cold turkey approach. We are talking many months if not years here. Many people cannot think that long term. They will struggle with the gradual approach simply because the desired goal is so far off into the future.

c) The Contained Approach

There is also what I call a “contained” approach where you don’t use any social media during designated times of the day. In essence, you make your peace with the fact that you are an addict. You have no goal of kicking the habit. Your goal is to remain somewhat functional, despite the habit.

What does that look like?

For example, you could set yourself an alarm right after waking for 2 hours from now. Only then do you check your social media for the first time.

You do the same thing for your bedtime. 2 hours before you go to sleep, you turn off your phone. Only the next morning do you start scrolling again.

You can also apply the contained approach to designated activities, like meals or workouts. No scrolling as long as you are doing these things.

So far, we have only talked about the contained approach on a day-to-day basis. But you can also apply this approach on a weekly basis. Simply have certain days of the week when you don’t do any scrolling. These are your reset days, so to speak. For example, you might not use your phone on Mondays. If you want to do more than one day per week, I recommend spacing your non-phone days out, e.g. Mondays and Thursdays. This helps with adherence.

Finally, you can apply the contained approach on an even larger, more irregular scale. For example, you might go on a camping trip for the weekend and leave your phone at home. A few months later, you go on a one-week vacation and leave your phone at home again. Now you have established this rhythm of “off vs. on” phases. You have “abuse” phases when you scroll a lot, and you have recovery phases when you don’t scroll at all.

5. Define Your Objectives

Make sure to be crystal clear about what you are trying to accomplish. Define all of the following in writing:

  • Your reasons for wanting to quit
  • Your baseline usage
  • Your chosen approach (cold turkey vs. gradual vs. contained)
  • Your expected timeline for quitting
  • Your expected benefits of quitting

Be as specific as possible. For example, if you decide to go with the cold turkey approach, define what exactly constitutes scrolling. Does opening your Instagram to reply to a direct message already constitute a breach? Or do you fail when you scroll down your timeline? Define these parameters in writing.

Another example. If you opt for the gradual approach, define how much time you can still spend on social media or what apps exactly you are allowed to use.

Bottom line — there should be no room left for interpretation. You should have all the facts, rules, and desired outcomes in front of you. This will tremendously help with adherence.

6. Restrict App Usage

Okay, so how do you make it really difficult or even impossible to use social media apps on your phone? We looked at some of the milder options earlier. But those are not going to cut it for a real addict. Here are the strategies that might actually make a difference.

a) Delete the Apps

The go-to approach of most addicts is to delete the app from their phones altogether. This usually works, but only to an extent.

You won’t quickly be able to access your social media feeds anymore. However, it is still relatively easy to just download and re-install your favorite time wasters again.

But it at least significantly increases the activation energy. That’s why I do already count it as a “hard” measure, albeit not the most effective one.

b) Get a Genuine App Blocker

You can time-limit your app usage via the inbuilt Apple and Android solutions. But it is very easy to undo these time limits inside the settings. This will not stop a hardcore addict.

However, several third-party apps take this further. Once you have set the time limit, you cannot undo the setting until the timer is actually up. Some examples of apps that offer this functionality are “AppBlock,” “ResuceTime,” “FocusMe,” “Freedom,” or “Flipd.”

This is a legitimate option. However, with some of these apps, there is still a workaround. You can deinstall the blocking app and thus regain access to your favorite social media apps. But some apps even prevent that. If you deinstall the blocking app, you still won’t be able to use your social media apps until the time limit is up. This is the type of blocker you should go with if you are serious about “How to stop scrolling.”

c) Get a “Dumb Phone”

There are smartphones. But there are also so-called dumb phones. These typically only allow you to make calls and send text messages. Exchanging your smartphone for a “dumb phone” might be what is necessary if everything else has failed.

To be clear — even this approach is not perfect. You can still walk inside any phone dealership, buy a new phone, and be online again within half an hour or so. But it’s still a big hurdle to take not just because of the effort but primarily because of the price. Even a cheap smartphone will typically set you back a couple of hundred dollars. So, the associated hassle/pain is really quite high.

7. Create Accountability

Find someone to hold you accountable.

It is very hard to overcome any kind of addiction by yourself. There is a reason why 12-step programs always make use of the buddy system. If you have someone you must report to regularly, you are much less likely to fall off the wagon.

This accountability partner could be a friend, it could be someone you met at a support group, or it could be an accountability coach. I usually recommend going with someone you don’t have a personal relationship with yet, as they are less likely to cut you too much slack.

You can take this even further. There are now apps that allow another person to block your phone or certain apps on your phone remotely. Obviously, there should be a high level of trust between you before you opt for this approach. But it is an effective one.

8. Create Alternatives

It is important to come up with alternative activities to take the place of your scrolling time. For example, instead of doom-scrolling TikTok, read a couple of pages in a book.

A word of caution. Don’t overtax yourself. Don’t try to break a bad habit and simultaneously introduce a highly demanding good habit. It sounds nice in theory, but it’s not sustainable.

Start with something something “good,” but enjoyable. For example, go get a massage. Go swim in the ocean. Go sunbath. These are all health-enhancing activities, but at the same time enjoyable. They will require little if any willpower. “How to stop scrolling” is something you will start to look forward to.

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