The agency created an interactive mobile application called "Thumb Run." It features a cartoon thumb dressed in running gear making its way through a racecourse in the style of an arcade game from the 1980s. The application helps to visualize the distance that the average person's thumb covers when scrolling.
It's no secret that people spend a lot of time on their smartphones, said Rob Jones, head of the public relations and social media department at Ilk agency. But the sheer distance covered by the average person's thumb scrolling over just one year is simply staggering, added Jones.
He said they wanted to illustrate how big a role social media plays in people's lives, whether that be as a source of entertainment and important information or as a means to stay connected with family and friends.
Last year, the United Kingdom's communications regulator, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), released a report that looked at what people in the U.K. were doing online. It found that the average adult spends roughly 49 minutes per day scrolling through social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The agency made calculations based on that estimate and found that the average person's thumb travels nearly 52 miles every year just scrolling through social media. That's just under two marathons (52.4 miles).
This finding is troubling because excessive smartphone use has been known to cause "scroller thumb." Scroller thumb, also known as "texting thumb," is when the thumb cramps, becomes inflamed or gets stuck in a bent or uncomfortable position.
Scroller thumb isn't normal because the repetitive movement of the thumb joint can cause pain and eventually cause arthritis or joint inflammation. (Related: 14 Natural treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.)
"Basically, the tendon in the thumb becomes inflamed as it rubs repeatedly against the tunnel surrounding it," said Eugene Tsai, a specialist at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. That inflammation could lead to thumb pain around the knuckle. People with scroller thumb might also experience a clicking sensation when bending their thumb.
Scroller thumb is typically associated with smaller smartphones. Larger smartphones and tablets are normally associated with pain in the fingers and the wrists, added Tsai.
It can be difficult to resist scrolling mindlessly through social media every day. Thankfully, there are measures you can take to limit your smartphone use and avoid scroller thumb, such as:
Learn more about the harmful effects of excessive smartphone use at Health.news.