How I Accidentally Broke My Doom Scrolling Habit

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Like readers I know this column, it’s not a shame in mobile game. Even though at some point in my not-too-distant past I felt embarrassed about being addicted to banal phone games, Merge Mansion captured my soul and in the process changed my attitude towards mobile games as well as social media. Setting to Merge Mansion gave me the option to turn off doom scrolling.

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Before we go any further, a moment of honesty: this was not planned. I wasn’t trying to avoid social media when I clicked on this Instagram ad for Merge (clearly). Instead, by investing in a mobile game rather than a console game, I was able to train my lizard brain to open Merge— not on Twitter or TikTok or Instagram — every time I reached for my phone. This, it turns out, is much easier than getting used to picking up a gamepad instead of a phone.

How did this happy accident happen? Like (I’m guessing) many of you, my nights in the last year or so started to take on a toxic form that always ended with me absentmindedly picking up my phone and just…scrolling. I didn’t even realize I was doing this until my 10pm alarm went off, reminding me to get ready for bed. I caused journalist Karen K. Ho to start sending reminders people on Twitter telling them to put their devices away. It was unhealthy; I never managed to relax, and every morning I woke up completely unrested.

Then I started to play Merge the mansion. The way the game works is that you create objects and then combine them. In order to produce items, you must use energy, and eventually it runs out. It only takes 15 minutes or so to drain your resources, so there are plenty of built-in natural breakpoints. Merge MansionThe energy mechanic makes it easy to keep track of the time you spend in the game. Simply put, it’s a much more manageable pastime.

Using social networks is not so convenient. Believe me, I tried. I’ve tried hiding certain apps away from the home screen; I have set screen time limits. At one point, I even tried to remove them completely, but as someone who relies professionally on social media, it just didn’t make sense.

Mobile games have become a loophole. Instead of deleting Twitter or TikTok, I just left the games on my desktop. Now when I take out my phone they are the first thing I see. And it’s not just Merge Mansion, or. i play too Family farm adventure. It’s not that I’ve convinced myself not to open social media apps, it’s that I don’t. want more. I’d rather play games.

And you know what? I don’t care if I spend the whole evening playing. It’s fun, it’s relaxing, and it’s satisfying. I get a real sense of accomplishment when I improve a building or clean a fountain of dirt. I usually play for 15 or 30 minutes and then go look for a book or turn on the TV.

This shows up even in my mobile habits: before I started playing Merge MansionI spent about two hours a day on Twitter. Now it’s an hour a day for mobile games and only half an hour – sometimes even less – for a toxic bird app. Mobile games really improve the quality of my life, and it doesn’t even require me to do much.

Although some are lucky replacing doomscrolling with handheld gamesfor me it’s not. I really love my Switch (and my new Steam deck – more on that in the coming weeks), but the main thing for me is that the games are on my phone. I don’t need to keep another device within range to access games. Since my doomscrolling is an automatic bad habit, I also needed to make the solution automatic. For me, that meant mobility.

If you’re not really into mobile games but want to get started, try downloading a few types of games. I find fusion and enhancement games to be the most successful for me. I don’t necessarily like free games where you having shell out the money to make it big (although I definitely bought a few extra packs at Merge Mansion without any sense of guilt – this is the protection of my mental health, okay?). It’s worth experimenting to see what works and what looks good on a smaller screen (many iOS mobile games display better on an iPad).

Either way, if you want to break this habit of scrolling doom, it’s worth digging into this. Speaking of digging, get ready to plant some flowers. Merge Mansion.

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