So do we have a COVID-19 vaccine yet? Or some other miracle cure? Did 2020 finally change its mind and give up on its train wreck spree? I have constantly asked and also searched for answers to these questions in the past few months. Consequently, I know everything about the latest updates in Covaxin trials. Also, I can easily vouch that I have watched at least 50 random videos that have been posted on social media in the past 24 hours.
Long things short, I am currently frequenting a morbid rabbit hole to help me with some sense of grip over the wildly disorienting happenings in the world. I scroll through my Twitter feed right after I wake up in the morning, during work, and before bed, often pushing my sleep by hours. But is it really helping? Well, if I were to consider the restless and catastrophic thoughts that haunt me at night, then no not really.
But then again so many of us currently seem to be doing exactly this as we navigate our lives through a world pandemic. That’s not it. Apart from the pandemic, there’s so much more. From locust attacks, cyclones to the latest Beirut blast, there’s just too much happening right now, all of it wildly scary and threatening.
The fact that there has been ample of doomsday news this year is thus catalysing what’s being termed as Doomscrolling. Now, this one is a new Twitter trend that has dictionaries decoding the phenomenon as the world indulges in its toxicity. Living for the pandemic news of late? Here’s what you need to know:
“Doomscrolling and doomsurfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back,” describes Merriam Webster.
Urban Dictionary paraphrases it in more relatable terms: “Obsessively reading social media posts about how utterly fucked we are.” To cut it short, a lot of us are currently binging on the deluge of negative news that’s being shared excessively on social media at the moment.
Ever been romantically attracted to toxic people? Well, that’s most of us, right? Turns out, humans possess this tendency to be drawn towards the negative as part of their evolutionary cycle and survival instincts. Tanvii Bhandari, Counselling Psychologist at Anchorage Counselling Services further explains, "Doomscrolling is a modern behaviour but it comes from a primal instinct: the instinct to survive. We do this to understand our environment to be able to make better decisions for survival. Now since we have so much information at our fingertips we find ourselves overdoing it."
This Doomscrolling is our way of staying alert and having ample data to make an informed decision if and when a life-threatening situation arises. Of course, we have all been hypervigilant to threat and danger during the pandemic, which has led us to latch on whatever new information we can get about the same as part of our mitigation strategy.
A recent study posits that "During the initial stages of COVID-19 in India, almost one-third of respondents had a significant psychological impact." Quite evidently, the pandemic has had an adverse effect on our mental health and all the doomscrolling is certainly not helping. And while we might be scrolling through all the pandemic or calamity oriented news stories simply for information, the practice might be giving us additional stress and anxiety.
“Many people think that they’ll feel safer by staying abreast of the latest news. Yet, they don’t realize that consumption of the negative news only leads to greater fear, anxiety, and stress," says Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist who has been actively campaigning to raise awareness about mental health during the pandemic wrote in her tweet. This is exactly why people across the world are posting pictures of their pets or funny videos with #doomscrolling to help everyone get some respite from the anxiety-provoking surfing practices.
Clearly, doomscrolling isn't bringing us any good and here's what you can do to put it in check:
It’s Time You Start Controlling What You Watch: It is important that you go on a news diet now. Start by turning off the push notifications from news platforms. Then, slowly start cutting your scrolling time, capping it to 30 minutes per session and try not to go beyond three sessions per day.
Establish Boundaries: It has been amplified enough times for you to understand that excessive use of gadgets and electronic equipment is not good for our health. Thus, it is very important that we start establishing boundaries pertaining to them. Stop staying glued to your phone 24*7. Also, make a very strict policy about banning gadgets from the bed. All your scrolling/surfing activities should stop at least 60 minutes before you go to bed.
Positivity: Bookmark social media pages and websites that post happy, feel-good content. Scroll through them whenever you feel like you're being sucked in by the matrix of doomsday news and information.
Reach Out: Reach out to your loved ones and friends for a sense of connection to get a grip over the world. This practice will also take care of your mental and physical health.
Lastly, it is important to remember that it is excessive surfing about the negative news that has adverse effects. There's nothing wrong with keeping yourself informed with regulated exposure to news and it has to be both positive and negative.
Featured Image: Unsplash