The coronavirus pandemic and the consequent lockdown has changed our working patterns and daily routine completely. And for me, it has led to the development of an immensely bad habit, one where I cannot stop scrolling my social media, that too for bad news. While being addicted to a smartphone is one thing, not being able to stop oneself from reading depressing news is another ballgame altogether.
The constant waves of breaking stories about new coronavirus cases and crashing economies, together with live updating global case statistics, news about classes reopening and daily updated death count has mostly kept me scrolling into the night. As I incessantly scroll through bottomless doom-and-gloom news for hours, I can feel myself sinking into a pool of despair. And it was only recently that I learnt that this habit of viewing a constant stream of negativity also has an official name: doomscrolling.
So What Exactly Is Doomscrolling? Why Do We Do It?
Doomscrolling is a portmanteau that the dictionary defines as “referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening or depressing." The lockdown is forcing me to stay inside 24/7. Like everybody else, I too have become hypervigilant, and initially, this action of pushing the thumb upwards on-screen was merely done in an attempt to seek information. After all, who doesn’t want to familiarise oneself with the dangers lurking in the outside world, in order to gain a sense of preparedness and control?
On top of that, there’s a pang of constant guilt gnawing at the back of my head, “Here I am saying 'I cannot bear to look at the news,' what about those front-line workers and local-aid groups who are enduring this as a lived reality?” The woke culture has conditioned me to be aware of my privileges, this is a double-edged sword in current circumstances, that makes me feel guilty for everything I cannot do to make things right for everyone.
The Price You Pay For Doomscrolling
Consider doomscrolling to be like having lactose intolerance and still eating lots of cheese toast—you know it's not a good idea, but you just can't help yourself. Except instead of just leading to physical discomfort, doomscrolling also takes a real toll on mental health. And I say this from personal, first-hand experience. The heart rate quickens as you flick through post after post after post. It’s all terrible, but you really cannot stop now. You just need to know. Your thumb can hardly keep up with your eyes, as you scan hungrily for more information. And when your screen runs out of fresh content, you hit refresh and the ride starts all over. Sounds all too familiar?
Every hour spent doomscrolling leaves me angrier and more unproductive than before. All I have ever wanted was for my infinite scroll to present me with better information so that I can finally make sense of the current state of the world! But five months into the pandemic, I have realised how this has left me with increased feelings of depression and loneliness. And after going through millions of comments on Twitter and Reddit on the subject, I know I am not the only one who has developed anxiety issues due to this habit of doomscrolling. According to a survey, whose results were published in PubMed, more than 50 percent doomscrollers who constantly view fear-inducing content suffer from physical and mental discomfort including headache, muscle tension, anxiety and depression.
List Of Things You Can Do To Avoid Doomscrolling
What I’ve done is set for myself a time-limit of 30 minutes when I engage with the news, and I try to stick to that. Subsequently, I’ve made it a habit to log out of my social media accounts on my phone everytime I’m done using them because it adds more friction to the next time I have the urge to scroll. I’ve also started to engage myself in different hobbies like reading books and cycling. Additionally, I am also slowly coming to terms with the fact that my doomscrolling is not doing my physical or mental health any favours—and it's definitely not helping my loved ones or society at large, either. After all, this is a time for everyone to be really mindful of what we’re doing, and to try to do better—and if that includes putting the phone away once in a while, so be it.
Image Credit: The Indian Express
Dyuti Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.