Doomscrolling: A harmful habit

It’s an easy habit to fall into – we have leisure time on our hands, so we reach out for that familiar crutch of contemporary society; the cellphone. Our intentions are to do some lazy scrolling through social media, but what do we encounter? An endless stream of anxiety and anger.

As we all know, terrible happenings keep the news media in business – even if they have to make terrible “projections” about something that hasn’t even happened, and may never do so.

No one wants to read about things that are going well. It’s sensation that brings in the clicks, and thus the advertising. This is the media that we consume and share amongst ourselves, and we may think, “well, it’s news, and we have to stay informed”, but we may not be conscious of its cumulative effect.

These repetitive signallers of gloom that are firing at us from all angles lead one into a space of hopelessness and despair. How can we possibly lead productive and happy lives if we have a subconscious sense that the entire world around us is collapsing?

The term that’s emerged for this seemingly “harmless” online pastime, is doomscrolling.

Here, then, some useful hints that may help us to counteract the onslaught of despair that comes with doomscrolling:

1. Make your mornings an offline zone

When we open our eyes in the morning, so many of us reach out for our cellphones before we’ve even stepped out of bed. The result: Often the news that hits us is so psychologically debilitating, that we feel like simply going back to sleep. A good start to a productive day would be to keep one’s cellphone off one’s bedside table, and follow the discipline of not going online when we’ve barely opened our eyes. Morning is a time for a healthy breakfast, perhaps a warming cup of coffee, and looking forward to the challenges and excitement of a new day. Arms that so willingly reach out for cellphones can be used to hug spouses, children or pets, before they all venture into their new day.

2. Be aware of “connectivity addiction”

Aimless online activity is submission to a kind of hypnosis, and awareness of this is our best ally. When we notice ourselves “going under”, we should put our phones or tablets down, and move onto another activity. Sometimes it even helps to leave the phone/tablet in another room. If we’re using these instruments for work or other essential communication, then great; that’s when they’re our allies. If we’re allowing them to drag us down, however, that’s when we need to say “thanks, but no thanks”. Developing a hobby is a positive way of harnessing our energies and talent, and leaves us with something to show, rather than a headache and dejected attitude. There’s a world of exciting activity waiting out there to engage us.

3. Be conscious of your online choices

The Internet is a world of almost infinite variety, but we need to be keenly aware of our choices, and ask ourselves: “Will this site educate, uplift, amuse or benefit me in any way, or will it simply serve to make me angry, resentful, or fearful (i.e. drag me down)?” If we feel like texting or chatting with someone, we’d do best to connect with friends that are creative, inspiring and cheerful.

4. The Internet is a drug

Just know that. In the medical world, drugs can be incredibly helpful, though as we all know, when abused, these same concoctions can take one on a downward spiral to oblivion. And so it is with with the Internet, which can be an incredibly powerful and useful tool in our lives, but can also be a time-waster and bad influence – just like those kids that our parents discouraged us from mixing with. Dwelling in the dark and downbeat spaces of this virtual universe can give us a false and depressing perspective on the world around us. And don’t be mistaken; the dark and downbeat has become mainstream, and isn’t difficult to encounter. We should always question the messages that we receive, and balance our input. Even if we don’t say this out loud, we should think to ourselves, when receiving any information, “Thank you for sharing, but I’ll take that under advisement!”

In closing, be sure that you are the master of your cellphone, and not the other way around.

Useful resources:
Henley Business School
At the core of Henley’s philosophy is the belief that we need to develop managers and leaders for the future. We believe the challenge facing future leaders is the need to solve dilemmas through making choices. We work with both individuals and organisations to create the appropriate learning environment to facilitate the critical thinking skills to prepare for the future.
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