I think it’s safe to say 2020 has been one long, never-ending road trip to explore all the detours we can take to rock bottom; Satan is in the driver’s seat, there’s zero snacks, and the GPS is just Donald Trump’s voice bellowing, “Trust me, we’ve got it all under control!” on repeat.
Jesus, take the wheel. Please.
2020 has been a glorious dumpster fire of a shitshow, so it’s no surprise that the news has become a source of dread and even morbid fascination. Most of us were already glued to our devices, but now it feels like our addiction to social media and the news has skyrocketed to a whole new level. As a result, many of us, myself included, are suffering.
“Doomscrolling” is destroying our mental health
In a nutshell, “Doomscrolling” is the behaviour where you scroll through bad news until you’ve found yourself down a rabbit hole of anxiety. And honestly, I get why people do it. Take the first months of quarantine, for example: I found that I couldn’t stop hopping from one grim headline to another when browsing news updates.
It was just so surreal how we went from “business as usual” to being abruptly inundated with endless reports of globally rising covid-19 cases and deaths, crowds of people panic-stocking toilet paper, and the looming economic collapse.
Let me get real with you for a bit. Most times, I was desperate for any sliver of good news: that good is prevailing, the Amazon has stopped burning, and the world’s formerly beloved children’s books author is no longer a huge anti-transgender bigot.
But other times, especially when I felt especially overwhelmed, I wanted to marinate in the outpouring of bad news. Some dark, cynical part of me wanted more confirmation that the world is indeed a shitty place.
You likely already know this, but too much exposure to negativity will just lead to compassion fatigue. It’s normal to have an emotional reaction to a tragic incident (like someone getting shot in the back seven times by the police), but there has been A LOT of tragedy in 2020. It’s humanly impossible to dedicate 100% of our energy to every bad thing that has happened.
Plus, emotions like anger, grief, and helplessness don’t just take up space in the body rent-free. They leave you fatigued. Numb. Apathetic.
So, after letting our squishy hearts get beat up for the better half of this year, it’s probably time to show ourselves a little compassion.
It’s time to draw boundaries
Make no mistake, it’s admirable and even necessary to stay informed on the important things happening in the world. But, there is a danger in not being able to disengage from the overwhelming flood of bad news–and, consequently, the anxiety and cynicism that follow.
Setting boundaries for your exposure to the news is just as necessary if you want to take care of your mental health. An extreme method of setting boundaries is a digital detox. However, I get that logging off from all social accounts and entirely avoiding technology may not be an option for some people.
BIPOC activists, for example, don’t have the luxury of disengaging from social media when it’s such a crucial tool in their movement for equality. Neither do small business owners who rely on Instagram as an online shop front, as social media is basically the foundation of their business. Thankfully there are other avenues you can take to protect your mental health.
In regards to screen time, something that has helped me reign in my doomscrolling habit is following social media accounts that post positive news. This is one way for me to combat CNN’s doom and gloom and remind myself that mainstream media is typically biased toward the negative extreme. A couple of IG accounts I’d recommend include The Happy Broadcast, Upworthy, and Global Positive News.
Another thing that has helped me protect my mental health is limiting conversations about current events. It’s not a bad thing to talk about the pandemic, police violence, or climate change; Productive conversations about these issues can help us alleviate anxiety or gain deeper understanding.
But you might need time to emotionally recharge from these conversations. It’s completely okay to tell someone, “Hey, can we talk about something else? I don’t feel comfortable discussing this right now.”
In times of high stress and instability, it’s helpful to have reminders that there are still good things happening in the world and there are good, kind people out there making a positive impact. It gives us hope to keep shouldering on…and perhaps may inspire us to be that kind of person for others who need it, too.