Doomscrolling in the Age of COVID
One morbid headline after another floods my newsfeed, a barrage of global panic and suffering at the touch of my fingertips. Regardless of the platform, it’s more of the same every day: ever-increasing counts of the dead and dying, forecasts of a failing economy, threats and peacocking by a lame duck president. The escapism offered by social media platforms sucks me in and I am reeling, anxious, addicted: welcome to doomscrolling.
Doomscrolling or doomsurfing are terms that allegedly came about in 2018 on Twitter. The term however has become more popularized by the stream of tragic events that we’ve witnessed throughout 2020. The idea behind it is self-evident; doomscrolling is the act of continuously accessing disheartening content, despite the fact that it has negative effects on the viewer/reader. In the same way that we rubberneck driving past a wreck on the highway, it is all too easy to engulf ourselves in the mounting terrors of modern times.
Lately I’ve been losing hours, losing days. I find myself detached from the reality of my day-to-day life, responsibilities fading to the background as a compulsive need to tune in to the world at large takes over. Gone are the days of spending the first moments blissfully tangled in bedsheets and gently easing from dreamy to wakeful; no, now my eyes crank open, anxious and wide, ready to absorb the horrors of the day. Straight to the news, to the typing of keywords that will clue me in to the latest developments: election fraud accusations, COVID Maine new cases, police brutality, likelihood of second lockdown, Trump twitter, is it COVID or is it a cold?
Though I may take it to an extreme, I know that others engage in this practice of doomscrolling. I decided for this blog post that I would share, for my sake and perhaps yours, some tips for brightening up your timeline and reclaiming some peace of mind in these trying times.
Carve out time in your day to be screen-free.
While easier said than done, we all owe it to ourselves (and our loved ones) to be present in our lives. Taking time to set aside the phone or turn off the TV is an integral part of leading a balanced life and maintaining some semblance of sanity right now. Whether it’s a commitment to early-morning routines, family dinner around the table, or some bedtime reading, I encourage you to actively disengage from newscycle and the eerie glow of our ever-present screens. Perhaps consider leaving your phone in a different room to charge when you go to bed, to avoid interruptions to your sleep or break the habit of scrolling first thing in the morning.
Silence Notifications and Be Discerning with News Sources
With a few small changes to your phone, you can help yourself establish new behaviors by changing which notifications pop up, and at what volume! Lately, I’ve kept notifications on silent to help me step away from the constant impulse to look at my phone. While the news still appears on my timeline, the familiar ding of incoming information no longer compels me to grab my phone and start scrolling. I’ve also started to be more selective in the news sources I look at; while bias exists within both conservative and liberal-leaning media, some engage in more fear-mongering than others. If you find yourself sucked into negative thought patterns and anxious spirals on some sites more than others, perhaps flag those as ones to avoid or unfollow.
Flood Your Newsfeed and Timeline with Positivity
This is perhaps the easiest change to implement, as it doesn’t necessarily involve reducing time online, but rather aims to incorporate more positive content. One of the joys of social media is the ability to access groups and pages themed around most anything your can imagine. Love videos of puppies being rescued? There are tons of animal-themed pages out there. Do you ugly-cry over children singers getting their first big break? Search away! Inspired by the creativity of others and looking for tips for your fall crafting projects? There’s a group for that! While we can’t control all of the algorithms that determine what makes its way onto our newsfeeds, you can choose to like, follow, and join pages and groups that encourage, motivate, and uplift you. Choose happy. Perhaps consider unfollowing that pessimistic co-worker, that ranting family member, that page that, while informative, leaves you feeling downtrodden. Disengaging for your own well-being can be a gift to yourself and others. Remember, you don’t owe anyone your presence, virtual or otherwise. Prioritize wellness and stop the doomscroll before it takes a lasting toll.