Life is all about balance. Over and over again, we hear the importance of finding a balance between your work and home lives, maintaining a balanced diet and balancing your personal budget. But these are overarching goals, and certainly not the only things we need to balance.
Increasingly in our digital, ever-connected age, there is a need to balance our interactions with media. On the extreme end of this, over-connection entails continuous scrolling through social media and online news outlets, taking in copious amounts of bad news with no end in sight. This is doomscrolling, and while it’s not entirely new, it’s garnered more attention since the pandemic began.
But it isn’t just COVID-19 data we constantly consume out of fear while simultaneously increasing our own anxieties; it’s the 24-hour news cycle itself. Nowadays the news is a nightmare and there’s no escaping it. Terrifying news and current events seem eternal and inescapable. Oddly enough, at its core doomscrolling makes a bit of sense: knowledge is power. Constant refreshing is a way for us to feel in control, as if personally knowing every nitty-gritty detail about every tragedy will somehow make the world a better place.
And modern journalistic practices can play into this tendency of needing-to-know. Eye-catching headlines and seemingly “clickbait” articles meant to increase media consumption engagement can prey on our fears surrounding current events. The desire to capture a reader’s attention can unfortunately overtake the ethical responsibility of while not sugar-coating the news, avoiding glorifying it.
However, filling your days with negative news holds more negative consequences than positive outcomes. It’s a time consuming compulsion that distracts from other aspects of our lives, perhaps keeping us awake late at night (not to mention building anxieties to thus prevent one from falling asleep) or distracting us from work or social interactions during the day. Moreover, doomscrolling can be detrimental to one’s mood, by reinforcing negative ideas and emphasizing things that are bad, thus building a negative mindset and damaging one’s mental health. For example, a 2020 study found that excessive media consumption regarding COVID-19 was linked with greater levels of fear, stress, anxiety and sadness.
There is a difference between staying informed and torturing oneself. While we all have the responsibility of staying informed about the world around us, that should not come before our own health. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to form a healthy relationship with the internet and our consequential unlimited access to information.
For starters, limit the time you spend each day scrolling. It’s difficult to do so, but beneficial in the long run. Preferably, don’t make your time for news consumption the first five minutes you’re awake each morning or the last five minutes before you go to sleep at night. And when you are scrolling, make sure you read articles fully; slow the pace of your scroll. Instead of amassing the 30 worst headlines you can find in a five-minute time span, read one to five of those articles fully. This will ensure that you have a full grasp of what’s going on, rather than many shallow and therefore terrifying facts. Moreover, make sure you consume good news as well. It can seem hard to believe, especially when stuck in a pessimistic cycle, but there are good things going on as well.
The world is a scary place, and the news can make it seem even scarier. Since technology is not going away and the 24-hour news cycle isn’t slowing down anytime soon, it’s important to make sure our personal interactions with them are more beneficial than they are harmful. Just remember: it’s okay to take a break sometimes.