2020 is the year of new ways in which our phones are killing us. Turns out, there’s a new term for it: Doomscrolling.
“Doomscrolling is excessively scrolling through news or social media feeds looking for negative updates,” Dr. Patricia Celan, a psychiatry resident at Canada’s Dalhousie University, tells InsideHook.
We doomscroll because we humans have evolved with the need to familiarize ourselves with dangers, explains Celan. This gives us a sense of control and allows us to prepare for the worst — which also makes it difficult for us to quit.
“It’s hard to stop doing something that our mind unconsciously believes will help us be more prepared for danger, even if that is realistically not happening and anxiety is the only result,” she adds.
It’s like when you look through your boyfriend’s phone, expecting to find nudes from some caterer down in Louisiana. Even if you don’t find exactly that, you find something dreadful—Amazon orders for single rolls of toilet paper instead of bulk packages of 12, for instance. And you scroll… and scroll… and scroll. You think you’re protecting yourself, preparing yourself for the worst. But really, you’re just increasing your anxiety.
We’re all guilty of it. Why is it that after a long, stressful day, I’ll enjoy a lovely home-cooked meal and a glass of wine, a fantastic episode of Yellowstone, and the peace that comes with sinking into my couch, only to realize it’s time for bed and, OH! I should take one last look at the NEW YORK TIMES just to be… informed? To make sure my nightmares have a full tank of gas? I do this every night, and I don’t know why.
We really need an app to prevent us from our apps. I set my timer limit for Instagram, but I need something more dramatic. Once I’ve hit my doomscrolling limit, I need my phone to suddenly flash horrific torture images or maybe that reel Gabe plays in the office of “The Cinema of the Unsettling.” Let’s fight fire with fire. You’re not going to pull my head out of the world’s miserable updates by telling me my time limit is up. I need to be threatened with something even worse than wildfire headlines or dark red COVID maps.
“Ask yourself what is a reasonable amount of time that you can look at the news every day, then set a timer before opening Twitter or whichever app or website you use for news updates,” says Celan, who recommends setting a timer for 5-15 minutes and then cutting yourself off when the buzzer sounds.
Yeah, setting a timer isn’t going to cut it, Celan. Sorry. I need eyeballs crawling with lice, or tubgirl or the pain olympics. Bring on the A Clockwork Orange treatment.