I don’t know who needs to hear this but drinking poison in order to feel better is a bad idea.
That’s basically what we’re doing when we monitor the “news” of the day.
Early in the pandemic, I came across the term “doomscrolling.” It stopped me in my tracks because it resonated so much. According to psychologist and clinical assistant professor Ariane Ling, PhD., doomscrolling is “the act of endlessly scrolling down one’s news apps, Twitter, and social media and reading bad news.”
Seems like a bad idea. And yet, one reason we resort to this habit is to attempt to seek information in hopes of controlling the problem. Linked to a need for reassurance, the intent is to lessen the anxiety, but it usually exacerbates it.
“For some, doomscrolling becomes an ‘unsatisfying addiction’ that promises safety, security, or certainty when, in fact, the ever-changing, melodramatic news provides the opposite,” says author and clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly.
“In the long term, doomscrolling can increase levels of cortisol and adrenaline, both of which are stress hormones. Research routinely shows that chronic levels of elevated stress hormones are associated with many physical health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity,” she said.
Doomscrolling feels like doing something (“I am getting informed!”), but it’s not. It’s passively allowing outside circumstances and other people’s opinions to influence your own thoughts. It’s adding nothing productive to the world, wastes your precious time, and makes you feel terrible.
In his book Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport explains that our digital devices have been engineered to act like little slot machines. We scroll up with our thumb hoping for a treat, in the form of a bit of good news or reassurance. Sometimes we get it, which keeps us coming back. But that feeling is fleeting.
Studies have shown that our brains are wired in such a way that the more irregular the reward is, the more addictive it is. After all, if you knew all slot machines at the closest casino only paid out on Thursdays, they’d sit empty the six other days of the week.
Here’s another friendly reminder: All of our media outlets – yes, even your favorite one – make their money from advertising. Healthy advertising rates require eyeballs and clicks. And the best way to draw eyeballs is to declare, “The sky is falling!…Tune in at 9 for details.” Online sources can be even worse because oftentimes all they’re looking for is pure traffic. They want you to visit their site and don’t care how long you stay. That’s why you see so many outrageous headlines that don’t actually match up with what is written in the story. The headline got you to click, and the organization can point to the story and claim they did no false reporting.
Unfortunately, many of us get the bulk of our news from scanning headlines.
One way to limit the effects of doomscrolling is to set a timer or use apps that can limit your usage, such as locking you out of your newsfeed or Twitter account after a set limit per day.
It’s also worth being extra mindful of who and what you let into your daily feed. As James Clear has pointed out, “When you choose who to follow on Twitter or Instagram, or wherever, you’re choosing your future thoughts.”
Sometimes all that rage builds up and we have to do something. There is something to be said about taking action to gain some feeling of control. This past year, we’ve seen many examples of those who have chosen to act out in violence. It may get attention, but its effectiveness leaves much to be desired.
I’m all for being a rebel. Simply put, a rebel is a person who rises in opposition against one in authority or control. Now that person in control might be a person, but it might also be Adultitis or the forces of darkness that have their grip on the world. I love that the word rebel is a noun AND a verb. And verbs are all about action, about actually doing something.
I suggest becoming a joy rebel.
Unlike the poisonous passivity of doomscrolling, bringing joy to the world is a choice that actually requires real action.
We recently conducted a Mastermind Meeting in the Wonder & Whimsy Society about becoming a joy rebel. There were so many awesome ideas.
One member has been writing letters with her children to senior citizens who can’t go out.
Another member is a pharmacist who volunteered to give mobile COVID-19 vaccinations.
And yet another has been posting something that gives her joy on Facebook every day for over 300 days.
Can YOU write letters, volunteer for a service-centered organization, or counteract the negativity on social media by posting something positive?
You’re damn right you can.
You can also play online charades with a lonely friend, plant a garden, and pray for your enemies.
It’s high time to stop the doomscrolling, become rebels with a cause, and raise a ruckus.
If you’re ready to rise up and join a joy rebellion, you’re in the right place. (And there’s a good chance you’ll love being part of the Wonder & Whimsy Society.)
Look, I’m all for being informed. I’m not suggesting we bury our heads in the sand. But be careful about your inputs.
It’s possible to get a sense of what’s going on without wasting hours a day drinking poison while extolling its health benefits.
Enjoy and be inspired by this awesome video made by Brad and Kristi Montague. (And then check out an interview we did with Brad about his book, Becoming Better Grownups.)