If you are anything like me, at some point in your life your morning routine might have looked like this: wake up, roll up in bed, contemplate your existence, think about hitting the snooze button, decide not to , then pick up your phone hesitantly morning social media checking ritual.
We have all done it. What starts with just checking your phone can turn into an hour (or more) of switching between the same handful of apps – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Snapchat – over and over again, scroll-scroll-scroll through the abyss of the internet as the undercover AI keeps its eyes on the screen.
Suddenly it’s time to wake up and start my day, but instead of starting it in a good mood, my head looks like a spinning washing machine of pessimism and ominous information. (Which makes sense; I had just spent the first hour of my awakened consciousness feeding my brain the mental equivalent of fast food.)
And it’s not just a morning problem: every time there’s a spare second in the day, most of us check our phones. We do this before bed, during meals, during movies, TV shows, car trips, bus rides, queues, even when we are going out with other people. Half the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
What was once a place for fun memes and interesting information is now a minefield of content that makes you feel like everyone has a better life, plus police brutality videos, tweets about kids missing, infographics on how oceans and forests are being destroyed and volatile political discourse, and articles on how little time we have left to tackle climate change.
Many of us rely on social media to check on the state of the world, keeping us in touch with what’s important and relevant. Unfortunately, the line between that and getting caught up in a cyclone of doom and consumption is a difficult thing to master.
Doomscrolling had turned my longtime hobby of enjoying the articles I read and the videos I watched into something much more insidious. As the internet has evolved and become more and more involved in everyone’s daily life, much of it has become a mess of toxic propaganda and traumatic pornography, often causing violence in real life. an influx of hateful comments and poisonous fighting on the internet.
I felt my sanity was at a crossroads. The way I got involved with the internet let cynicism and despair escape the rest of my life. I got more and more miserable every time I looked at my phone. I got to a point where I had to ask myself: why did I want to start my day by watching videos that make me cry? Why do I want to wake up and get mad at some unnamed ignoramus’ comments on Facebook? And more importantly, why can’t I stop?
The science behind Doomscrolling
For something that usually makes us feel like garbage, it doesn’t seem logical that we do it that often. But it turns out there are scientific and biological reasons humans are so prone to scrolling through fate.
Doomscrolling, a term popularized by Karen Ho, senior journalist at Initiated, describes something we all inherently understand: recklessly consuming tweets, videos, Facebook posts, and more media in order to feel connected and informed, while actually drinking in an endless burst of information that often make us feel bad. It can be attributed to a kind of hypervigilance. Severe hypervigilance is usually a product of PTSD, but it can occur anytime you feel under imminent threat. It causes you to be in a state of perpetual fight or flight, and for those struggling with things like anxiety, panic disorder, or PTSD it can be even more extreme.
As we (as individuals or as a society) grapple with seemingly unrelenting historical world events, many of us experience symptoms of hypervigilance. When we continually see and hear things that make us feel threatened – from the media, from the government, from the climate, from people across the political aisle – we begin to feel that we need to protect ourselves. themselves. This can manifest as an obsessive urge to keep “looking for danger” by continually checking your phone.
Another reason the habit is so hard to break is that the scroll of fate is a behavioral addiction. The reason you feel like you have to grab your phone every couple of minutes is because you get physically used to the routine of picking up something, having it in your hands, and using your fingers to scroll. At some point, it becomes muscle memory.