Stop Doom Scrolling
Updated: Apr 12
One of the first times I was quoted in a media source, so long ago I can't find it on Google any more, I advised people to "go on a digital diet." At the time, I was concerned that people spent so much time glued to their phones, available for work even at home, that their brains never got a chance to relax. I'd like to say we've learned our collective lesson since then, but just checking work emails and news headlines has given way to lives that are saturated with social media doom scrolling, comment section cruelty, and the need to stream entertainment at all times, in all locations, and on all available devices. Maybe you aren't guilty of all of these, but society is in trouble, my friend.
If the pandemic year taught me anything, it's that I have control over very little except my own behavior.
So, just like I could encourage, but not compel, anyone around hand washing or toilet paper hoarding, I know I can only make suggestions for online behavior. Here are some things I've committed to and that I think might help you too, starting with the title concept.
Stop doom scrolling--There is a difference between being informed and overloading your brain. Yes, we need to know what's happening. No, we don't need to have a minute-by-minute commentary on every controversial event. That time period, for thinking and processing, that used to happen between reading the morning paper and opening your mouth is sorely missed.
Get out of the comments section--I will confess that reading the comments on news stories has been a guilty pleasure of mine for years, but it's one I'm giving up. As an educator, I love real, substantive, discussion of ideas. One of the classes I teach focuses on helping students improve their ability to write compelling and supported arguments. This is NOT what you'll find in online comment sections (or message boards). Whether it's someone trying to "own the libs" or insulting "the MAGAts" the commentary on news stories has degraded below the level of school yard taunting. Spelling, grammar, and logic errors aside, the main characteristic of most of these comments is pointless cruelty.
Select an alternative news source--Neutral, unbiased news is almost impossible to find, and if we are honest with ourselves most of us know that we select news sources that confirm our preconceived notions and support our views. You don't have to give up your favorite broadcast or website, but make a real effort to find at least one NEW source of information. Here's someone who has done a lot of the background research for you https://towardsdatascience.com/how-statistically-biased-is-our-news-f28f0fab3cb3 I am going to make an effort to check out all of the "10 most neutral news sources" throughout this year.
Cut down on the binge watching--All those months stuck at home sent many people down a Netflix tunnel. Well, it's time to emerge. You know the drill--get off the sofa and take a walk. When you can once again use public transit, pay attention to the new post-Covid world instead of trying to watch videos on your phone. Start small by substituting a few minutes of exercise or reading for passive viewing.
It may seem like surface level fluff to you, my plea to get you out of the digital world a bit more and into real life, but it comes from my heart. Our natural human tendencies to turn inward during a crisis, and become intolerant and tribal in hard times, have been turbocharged by so much screen time. The result is a more poorly informed and at the same time more violently opinionated populace. On a deep, moral, and visceral level humanity is broken. We cannot do the work of healing until we stop filling our minutes and our minds with low-quality information. The old phrase "garbage in; garbage out" still rings true.