Center for Shared Insight, PC

Scrolling & The Couch Potato Effect

January 12, 2021
Posted By: Kristen Hick, Psy.D.

It’s the end of a long day and you likely feel like “zoning out” with some form of entertainment. In the past, that might have been a good Netflix binge or sitting at a local bar. The popularization of social media and digital communication, coupled with the isolation of the coronavirus pandemic means that more and more people are turning to the endless scroll on their phones to decompress, and “connect” with others in a social way. Whether that be scrolling through the news, facebook, instagram, snapchat, online dating sites, or other outlets, scrolling has become the lastest couch potato activity. We are seeing it more and more as we work with clients at Center for Shared Insight in Denver, Colorado.

In this post, we’ll dive more into the couch potato effect, how you can recognize that you are falling into that trap, and how to overcome it.

Why Scroll?

Oftentimes long scrolling sessions are the result of feelings of loneliness, boredom, and isolation. They are often an effort to connect with others, but usually in a way that ends up making you feel even worse. Most people use social media as a highlight reel of life, and scrolling sessions can leave you feeling lonely, empty, and inadequate. Scrolling or swiping on online dating profiles, without a true intention of taking action to date someone, can also be a way of passing time and getting a fix of attention when someone swipes right on your profile too. When scrolling is done in these ways, it’s usually to “check out” and avoid uncomfortable feelings. 

Recognize that extraordinary effort by technology companies goes into keeping you scrolling on your devices. It’s a way to monetize those seemingly innocent social platforms and more time scrolling means more ads served to you, and revenue in the hands of those technology companies, much like the film “The Social Dilemma” uncovers. Not to mention, there is a dopamine response when others like or comment on your posts and those notifications are designed to be addictive. 

As you consider these dynamics ask yourself, if being a “couch potato” is so unacceptable, why is a “scrolling binge” ok? The latter is simply a more modern-day version of digital laziness.


If you know that you spend an inordinate amount of time scrolling right now, consider setting limits for yourself as a first step. Monitor your usage for a week and then set a goal for less screen time the following week. Or, take note of the times you feel most inclined to scroll (usual later in the evening), what you are feeling when you reach for your phone, and replace those hours with activities that make you feel more centered and satisfied. Is there a way to connect socially in the real world or over video with others? Could you use self-care to honor yourself during the times you are feeling lazy or disconnected? Would it be possible to use scrolling time as a reward for yourself and a motivator to complete other important tasks — such as a reward for exercise or a day of healthy eating?

Spending time scrolling is not a personal failure. You are not a bad, weak, or unmindful person because you have fallen into this habit. However, notice the subtle differences in the way you feel as you cut back on scrolling time and replace it with more mindful, fulfilling activities. In fact, keeping a journal with even just a few sentences about how you feel after scrolling vs other activities could provide greater awareness of the impact of your choices.

At Center for Shared Insight, we work with clients to identify any problematic or destructive patterns in their lives and identify how they might replace them with healthier and more fulfilling choices. Whether that be scrolling, addictions, or just bad habits, our team can help you understand the “why” of those choices and how you can replace them with healthier patterns.

If these challenges resonate with you, call our team for a free consultation and find out how the therapists at Center for Shared Insight in Denver, Colorado can support you today.


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