We are constantly glued to our cellphones, getting updates within microseconds. Unlike in the 90s, when we would get news the next day in the newspapers, our notification bar is pinging every other second. When we read good news, we feel happy but unpleasant news is a little harder to digest, and the immediate response is to know more hence we immediately go online and read more and more information about it — a phenomenon so prevalent that it's now referred to as 'doom scrolling'.
It has become second nature for us to stay on top of all news pouring in from across the globe, especially if a situation is of concern. Not only are they tracking the updates, but also analysing and personalising the information. The extent to which people are now engaging is could lead to a detrimental impact on one's mental health and well-being. This phenomenon is not new it existed before as well, but the effect of it was seen more prominently during the pandemic.
So, what can you do to maintain your sanity and take care of your mental health?
1. Become aware of your information consumption — We have stopped feeling bored because we are constantly engaged on our phones, and even at the slightest hint of boredom, we've developed a tendency to pick up our phones and start scrolling — whether it's social media or news websites. Take a few days to reflect on the amount of time you are spending consuming information, as well as the extent to which it is repetitive. It would be beneficial if you dictate how you want to spend your time and the nature of information you would like to consume.
2. Media Literacy — the information we receive is now customized to our interests, preferences, and search histories. It's therefore inevitable to not get bombarded by lots more of the same information as we have viewed. In this environment, therefore, it becomes inevitable to be cognizant of how technology is designed to capture our attention so that we're able to retain our power of choice.
3. Stick to a few verified sources of information — the internet is abounding with information (some verified, some controversial and some fake), with multiple platforms vying for our limited attention. To minimise doom scrolling, remember to stick to a few news channels, papers, or websites that you trust. But at the same time, also be critical of what you are reading.
4. Look for alternate ways to cope with bad news — seeking information or answers to a difficult situation is a strategy people may utilize to cope with stress. Consider using other strategies when experiencing distress -- it could be speaking to someone, or actively disengaged from that situation by involving yourself in another activity.
5. Minimising screen time — we spend more time on our screens now more than ever. Given how reliant we have now become on gadgets for our work, try to stay away from your devices during breaks. Engage in other activities and hobbies that give you a break from your screen. At the same time, it's not just about the amount of time you spend on your devices but how you use them that matters as well. Pick a video or telephone call with a loved one over texting or liking their posts on social media. Also, avoid checking your phone at least 45 minutes before you sleep as well as the first thing in the morning.
6. Spread positivity online — we're surrounded by stories of both positivity as well as negativity, the choice is ours what we choose to focus on and to what extent. Rather than focusing on everything that's going wrong, take some time to deliberately look for stories of hope and joy. Similarly, when sharing a post, check its validity, as well as the impact that it may have on the receiver. Think about whether it will spread positivity or add more distress to the reader. When it comes to social media, we are all creators of information — let's be responsible and conscientious in the content we create and spread.