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11 Reasons Your Thumb (and Mind) Need a Rest from the Endless Scroll



J. Walter Thompson London's Jo Wallace on the benefits of putting your phone away once in a while

11 Reasons Your Thumb (and Mind) Need a Rest from the Endless Scroll

The average person’s thumb scrolls through 300ft of feed every day. That’s the height of the Statue of Liberty. I know this because I attended a Facebook talk recently and I paid attention, instead of scrolling through my phone.

Thumbs are pretty cool. Or, to give them their correct, loftier description: opposable thumbs are pretty cool. 

Opposable thumbs, I seem to remember, were why the cats in that strange Cravendale ad from several years ago were so wrought with jealousy. Because, if cats had them, they’d be able to open the backdoor and get to the milk. Instead, cats have claws, which means they can open human flesh (if you don’t serve them the milk like a good human). Don’t pity them.

Apologies, I’ve gone off on a tangent, a bit like when you’re looking at Instagram one second then suddenly find yourself scrolling through The Glamorgan Gazette’s gallery of an ‘elegantly wasted’ Santa the next. …Just me?

I accepted that I was a scrollaholic towards the end of last year. They say the first step towards recovery is admitting it to yourself. Now, as many of our New Year’s resolutions start to falter, I’m determined to stay on track and live more ‘in the moment’ rather than constantly reaching for my phone - the adult, well-designed equivalent of a security blanket.

Since getting all ‘in the moment’ I’ve done things like ditch my phone and pick up a pencil. I found a life drawing class and reignited my ability to focus. It felt creative, meditative and freeing in equal measure. I didn’t give my phone a second thought as I grappled with drawing a leg that looked like a leg, a thumb that resembled a thumb – not attached to a phone! Now I’m soon to host my own life drawing class, in collaboration with Spirited Bodies, as a one-off event alongside my usual Good Girls Eat Dinner programme. Called Good Girls Reveal All, it will be a life drawing event with a difference: the models will break their silence and speak, sharing their unique life experiences as people draw. Far more inspiring than scrolling through Twitter, I bet. 

Rediscovering creative focus is just one good reason to live more in the moment. Here are 11 other good reasons for why your thumb (and mind) could use a rest from the endless scroll.

1. You might wear it out.

Climbing the Statue of Liberty, every day, without safety ropes or Bear Grylls’ back-up is a lot of pressure on one brave, little digit. In pure physical terms, it’s a lot of joint wear and tear compared to previous generations. What if we reach old age with useless, flaccid thumbs? How will we take our dentures out, or hold our partner’s hand on our death bed?

2. You might look up and no-one’s there.

No one likes to be ‘Phubbed’ (being snubbed by someone in favour of their phone). 46% of people in a relationship say they’ve been ‘phubbed’, with 22% saying it causes a strain on their relationship. Unless you want to end up single, you’d better put that phone down and start interacting. Forget Facebook likes, try giving your partner a thumbs-up in real life. No. Don’t. Never actually do that. It will also lead to singledom.

3. You could do so much more with your time.

The average American adult spends 4 hours 40 minutes on their mobile phone every day. 1 hour 16 minutes of that is generally spent on social media platforms. Rather than mindlessly gazing at a small screen, discovering what Mandy had for breakfast, you could be mindfully practicing yoga, painting a masterpiece, or even making a delicious breakfast (which you could eat and enjoy, instead of art directing it for Instagram until it’s cold).

4. You could gain 5 years of your life back.

Doing the math on the above, on average, you’ll spend five years and four months of your life just on social media. Mostly on your phone. I’m actually having a mini melt-down at that fact… Essentially, you’d gain five years of life back if you gave up YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter. Okay, so you could argue that you’d be out of touch but would life really suffer as a result of missing YouTube’s latest cat video?

5. You’ll sleep better.

Smartphones disrupt sleep, in part, because they emit what's known as ‘blue’ light. This light is picked up by special cells behind our eyeballs, and it communicates to the brain that it's morning, wakey-time not sleepy-time.

6. You could avoid a nasty accident.

How often do you find yourself executing a Kung Foo style body-swerve to avoid colliding with someone because you were too busy looking down at your phone? Worse, people actually die crossing the road without looking up properly from their phone. Not even high level sexting is worth dying for.

7. People will hate you less.

How much do you hate those people who are too busy looking down at their phone and so nearly bump into you, treading on your foot like a lumbering fool in the process? Don’t be that person.

8. Your attention span could improve.

Evidence seems to suggest that as our scrolling, app-hopping habits increase, our ability to focus decreases. In the year 2000 the average person’s attention span was apparently 12 seconds. Now it’s just 8. If you’re reading this, thanks for giving me more than 8 seconds (no, don’t go!). Some would claim a goldfish now has a longer attention span than us, at 9 seconds. Plain embarrassing.

9. Would you spend hours gazing at wallpaper?

Didn’t think so but it’s kinda what you’re doing as you scroll on your phone. Your senses are bombarded with millions of bits of data every second, yet the average person's working memory can handle just 40-50 bits, max. Only those rare, truly engaging messages will illicit enough attention to make it into your memory bank, so everything else is literally just wallpaper. 

10. Your thumb is capable of so much more.

Remember the earlier point about opposable thumbs enabling us to grip tools, hold books and open things? That list goes on and on. Merely scrolling with your thumb is the equivalent of putting a top-class race horse to work as a cute (some would say cruel) seaside ride.

11. Your self-esteem will improve.

Studies show that the more people check Facebook the worse they feel about their lives. A study by German researchers found that a third of people felt worse after spending time on Facebook, especially if they spent time viewing vacation photographs. Probably mine. Sorry about that.

So, maybe it’s time to put your thumb to a better use? Press the off button on your phone every now and again and start living more in the moment.

But like and share this article first, yeah?

CD Jo Wallace is creative director at J. Walter Thompson London

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Wunderman Thompson London, Fri, 19 Jan 2018 13:04:04 GMT