Thursday, December 24, 2020

Doomscrolling

 

Is there a better word for 2020? Doomscrolling (noun) -- the act of consuming an endless procession of negative online news, to the detriment of the scroller's mental wellness.

Yeah, that's me.

Every morning, scrolling headlines and taglines and come-ons and click-bait, my mind sinking deeper and deeper into a black pool. Just this blooming morning: "Highest Levels of Microplastics Found in Molluscs, New Study Says";  "Portugal outrage after Spanish hunters massacre 500 wild animals"; "Trump’s last-minute outburst throws pandemic relief effort into chaos"; "Could Trump declare martial law to try to steal the election?"; "Trump vowed to drain the swamp. Then he granted clemency to three former congressmen convicted of federal crimes"; "A President Unhappy, Unleashed and Unpredictable."

We're doomed, folks.

I wrote a Christmas letter. First time in years. I got calls from all over the country -- especially from Texas -- asking either directly whether I might be suicidal, or implying it by tiptoeing around the topic. I ain't that. I ain't suicidal. Sometimes I yell at the TV. Sometimes I yell at myself. Not out loud. Not yet, that. I've not become the guy who goes through the grocery store muttering angrily (though for social distancing, it ain't a slouch of a motivator).

Fact is, I don't go to the grocery store. Because of the risk of infection, natch. That's an oppressive topic that didn't make the first national headlines I saw this morning. My expanded scrolling to North Carolina yields this: "NC COVID hospitalizations hit another new high as deaths top 6,300." The virus darkens every corner of life, doesn't it? No need to ask really, with so many of us at home alone rather than with extended families. The virus is ever present and, just incidentally, deadly to people like me and mine.

“Doomscrolling can be a harmful habit, and detrimental to your mental and even physical health.” 
--Stephanie J. Wong, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist

I know, Dr. Wong, but it's hardwired in me to crave the news every morning. Habit? Like drugs? You bet. I very well know that bad habits can produce depression, which can be a bottomless pit. Here's another word for the year: catastrophizing: focusing on the negative aspects of the world in a way that makes it more and more difficult to notice anything positive. "When you experience stress – whether it's low-level stress from doomscrolling or a sudden, stressful event like a car crash – your body kicks into overdrive and releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol." The fight-or-flight response -- built into us by evolution, to save our butts from fang and claw, but "long term activation of this fight-or-flight response has been linked to digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, weight gain, anxiety, sexual side effects, and high blood pressure, as well as many other health issues."

Gee, thanks, Doc, like we don't already have enough stress.

So what does Dr. Wong recommend? "Avoid all social media." Unrealistic. But also this, a really good suggestion: "Practice gratitude." It's Christmas Eve. I'm in a warm place. I have my partner for life here with me, along with wonder dog Jake, and we have gifts prepared for one another. Pam's making a Pekin duck tomorrow, and we've got movies queued up for all day. Fuck everything else.




2 comments:

Opinionated said...

I have been consistently grateful this entire pandemic for a warm place to live, a faithful spouse, and a pantry filled with food. Merry Christmas back at you, friend.

Pixelshim said...

I so identify with your remarks.

Indeed, just this morning I was wondering when the day will come that I do not check the overnight COVID numbers. And scan headlines to see what is the newest outrage inflicted by Trump.

Let's hope that both topics fade into history as soon as possible and, meanwhile, continue to count the many blessings in our lives.