Lately I’ve been pulling out my eyebrows. I mean, not my entire eyebrows. Mostly I just kind of rub my (usually left) brow — when I’m nervous (aka during UNC basketball games), bored, or sometimes when I’m focused.
It’s a habit I’ve picked up in less than a month. Every once in a while, I’ll actually pull out a hair. Every time, I look down at a small black line on my thumb and think, “Wait, what was I just doing?”
As I was just browsing news articles and funny RTs from the Carolina victory over UVA (WOO!), my mom noticed me eyebrow-picking — I had mentioned it to her last weekend. I started thinking about the many bad habits in my life. Including the ones that involve my Internet use and media consumption.
To me the strangest addictions are the ones that are small and make no sense. (Not that any addiction makes sense. But I mean, eyebrow picking!?)
A similar pointless habit of mine can be seen in how I use my phone. I find myself — in some of the same situations (when I’m bored or in an uncomfortable situation) — checking certain apps on my phone even when I know there is nothing new to be seen. I alternate between Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and occasionally Facebook. I pull down and refresh even if the last tweet or Insta-picture was posted seconds earlier. I have the finger pattern between the apps memorized.
Alex Markowetz, a professor at the University of Bonn who studies our relationships with our mobile devices, says our phone usage is often irrational. He recently spoke with Nieman Lab on the subject in their report on what we can expect from smartwatches:
Smartphone usage is actually habitual. It’s not a conscious, deliberate decision.
Alex & his team put out an app called Menthal that helps you (and them, for research purposes) monitor your mobile habits. Alex’s site explains that the app also “enables users to detect abusive patterns in their usage and maintain a sustainable digital lifestyle.”
Our subconscious habits that feel like minute addictions scare me. What we do in our in-between moments — when we don’t feel like we’re doing anything — says a lot.
On a personal level, I hope to catch myself in these nonsensical habits. To stop them. First, I am, of course, in pursuit of some eyebrows that are, in fact, #onfleek. Second, I think I could find more healthy ways to deal with boredom, tension or anxiousness.
Like putting down my phone. Thinking. Or relaxing. Or doing something. Embracing an awkward or uncomfortable situation — being the first to break the silence on a bus ride that would instead be spent updating my Twitter feed impulsively. Developing a better way to relieve stress — going on a run instead of nervously petting my eyebrow.
Other questions I have on all this & how it relates to mass media:
What else is there in my life that is as pointless as pulling eyebrow hairs? How do my media habits affect where my attention ultimately ends up? Should media outlets capitalize on our habits — what about if they’re addictions?