There is no peace in doomscrolling; and that’s ok

First, a definition so we can wrap our heads around this thing:

According to a website centered around Endocrine related disorders, EndocrineWeb defines doom-scrolling: 

“Doomscrolling—sometimes also referred to as doom-surfing—is a phenomenon where you constantly scroll or surf through social media and other news sites in order to keep up with the latest news, even (and, it seems, particularly) if the news is bad.”

“Although the phrase is thought to have been coined sometime in 2018 on Twitter, it’s picked up steam since then in our cultural lexicon, becoming more popular after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March and April 2020. Technology columnist Kevin Roose described it as “falling into deep, morbid rabbit holes filled with Coronavirus content, agitating yourself to the point of physical discomfort, erasing any hope of a good night’s sleep.”

I’m sure many of us can relate to this unfortunate phenomenon, which, in my opinion, saw its real roots around the Bush administration.  This was one of the first times in modern history…or at least in my lifetime, that everyday people around my age group had a very pointed opinion about politics.  They may not have truly known what they didn’t like about Bush, but they felt a sort of…societal pressure to choose a side in the discourse and stay there.  

Obviously, this dumpster juice and toxic waste-covered snowball only picked up momentum as Facebook went from being the place where my friends and I attempted to creep on girls from other colleges (and very quickly gave up); to a multi-billion dollar company, with multiple social media platforms popping up to rival (and even eclipse) it.  Those platforms exhibited a more addictive quality.  Some say that is by design, as casino slot machines were used as the basis for the repeat dopamine hit of refreshing the app to see what you’re potentially missing.    

Whatever the truth behind social media in its present form, it is clear that it is here to stay and most likely going to continue to lean into its volatile nature.  

I think, at this point in the article, most websites would start to suggest some methods to try to combat the action of doomscrolling.  

I’m fully intending to conform to that present-day trope, BUT I want to go a bit further.  I think it’s needed.  

First, the “practical steps”:● Get more time away from a phone or tablet whenever you can, turn off your phone completely, OR put it in a room of your house and move to a different room altogether.  An action I used to engage in starting off was to simply sit in silence.  I wasn’t meditating or actively thinking about anything.  Just sit in silence and let my mind power down for the low-level anxiety that plagues the modern era every time we scroll past a political post or read about some bill that we find particularly alarming.● Unfollow whatever you find “activating” your nervous system.  For some time, my Instagram feed was nothing but dogs, music, fitness, food, and comedians.  I swear, it felt like the purported Chinese version of TikTok: I learned something new every day!● Keep things in perspective.  Envious of the life of some influencer?  Try to remember everyone has problems, hang-ups, and frustrations.  “Living your best life” is actually living a life where you’re doing the best you can in spite of your day being rainbows and candy or a chaotic hellscape served with a side of hotel buffet Scrambled eggs out of a bag.● Don’t shame yourself about the time you’re losing to doomscrolling.  Remember when your parents disapproved of your significant other in high school?  No? That was just me?  Cool…anyway, I found myself even more attracted to that awful good-for-nothing girl.  Hell, I still approve of her!  That being said, just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you’ve shrugged off this attraction to the obscene or forbidden in life.  You know what you should be doing (if there’s even something else to do on your schedule).  Leave it at that and do your best to simply limit time on the phone or catch yourself before you engage in mindless scrolling and opt for healthier activity.

Ok, now that we’ve regurgitated points that you easily could’ve found in a Buzzfeed or Buzzfeed adjacent article.  Let’s move on to my bonus material that will probably have little effect on your life:

Your thoughts and emotions are just a layer of “stuff.”  You are not beholden to them.  You don’t have to act out or lose time or energy to them.  You don’t have to do anything about them.  You can just let them float by like a cloud. 

Sounds hippie-dippie, and it kind of is.  

What do you think meditation is really all about?  Let me give you a light directive that you can put into practice soon.  

Find time to sit alone.  Get comfortable, close your eyes, and just lightly watch your thoughts.  When I say lightly, I mean…don’t stare them down like you have to record every detail of every thought of you’re not “doing it right.”  No, just become aware of your thoughts and feelings.  

Technically, this is a meditative technique but don’t turn it into a dogma.  Just see what you see.  I’ll tell you what I saw: A world of BS.  And I don’t mean to sound positive or negative.  It just…is!  My mind piped in a new hit single that I absolutely hate; a thought about my dog getting sick on the bathroom floor; wondering what I was going to eat for dinner; that time, my mom made me feel awful because she commented on my lack of muscle when I was 15; and fear of death.  Oh, and my girlfriend from freshman year of high school.  How’s she doing?

About 5 minutes into this, I just started laughing, and I thought, “Holy S—, this place is a mess!!!”

And that’s the reality of things.  The mind is inherently, a mess.  There really isn’t much of a filter system.  It just takes in whatever it gets fed: The Wendy’s you just drove by; the mean comment that driver yelled out of his window; the cute girl from that reality TV show wearing the ugly heels; the latest comment uttered by some political pundit on Twitter.  

With that being said, that may be more of an incentive to be mindful of what you throw into your mind willfully; but we can’t live a life of avoidance.  As the controversial Osho would say: “Monks living in the caves are cowards.”  So, a second thing to keep in mind when you can’t (or won’t) avoid the madness is this: Try your best not to take it too seriously.  The mind can be a messy place.  But it’s just collecting whatever it sees.  If you can make Wendy’s impersonal, you can make the election impersonal.  Just enough to see it all from a place of equanimity instead of dread.


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