How to stop scrolling through social networks chasing bad news

How to stop scrolling through social networks chasing bad news

Doomscrolling is an English neologism, born from the union of the words doom, meaning "misfortune", and scrolling, meaning "scrolling", and entered at the end of April 2020, in full pandemic, among the trending words of the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The term, as the name suggests, describes "the tendency to compulsively scroll through the pages of a site, the bulletin board of a social network, the screen of one's phone, in search of bad news". A trend that, in a historical moment like this, is naturally exacerbated by events such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the war between Russia and Ukraine. And that goes far beyond the simple desire to be informed, often taking on pathological connotations. Because, simplifying the phenomenon a little, reading bad news leads to an increase in stress and fear, to combat which other news continues to flow further, and so on: a vicious circle that is difficult to break and potentially very dangerous. >
“What we now call doomscrolling - explains to David Lazzari, president of the National Order of Psychologists - is the manifestation of a broader and long-known phenomenon, the so-called repetition compulsion. It is a pattern of behavior in which one enters an addiction loop and compulsively repeats the actions that characterize the addiction itself. The origin of this phenomenon is usually an excess of tension, which leads to a dysregulation of the normal control mechanisms of our behavior. A bit like those who need to obsessively check, in a short period of time, that they have turned off the gas tap ". C.

What happens in the case of information in times like these? "We are anxious, as is normal - continues Lazzari - and we feel the desire to seek news, exposing ourselves to the media bombardment, which only reinforces our anxiety. Let's not forget that the etymology of informing is giving shape: in this sense, news - especially the bad ones, especially those presented in a spectacular way - give shape and body to our fears, shaping our behavior. Bad and excessively spectacularized news, in particular, acts on our eurythmics, that is, on the fast processing channels, those that alarm us, rather than on the so-called slow thinking, the conscious and thoughtful one. And therefore they can lead us to behave in an irrational and sometimes unhealthy way ".

The colleagues of US have recently developed a list of tips and tricks to increase awareness of the phenomenon and, if it is if necessary, take the appropriate countermeasures. Let's see it together:

Listening to your feelings Getting informed is different from gorging yourself Establishing limits Beware of confirmation bias Anxiety and fear are "normal" Studying the role of TikTok in spreading Russian propaganda is not easy The platform does not provide external researchers the tools to monitor the propagation of fake news, forcing them to alternative ways Listening to their feelings The first step is to try to understand each other and get to know each other as best as possible. The question to ask, therefore, is first and foremost: “Why am I so interested in bad news? And why is the opinion of others so important? " . The reasons could be many, and often completely disconnected from the disasters of the world: work stress, for example, or sentimental or family problems, which can lead us, by reaction, to try to "distract ourselves" by picking up the smartphone and compulsive looking for bad news.

In this way, if you can identify the real reason for the problem, or the need that leads to doomscrolling, you can act directly on the cause rather than on the symptom, with more effective results. If the problem is work, for example, you can ask your colleagues for help, instead of further distancing them by hiding behind a phone screen.

Getting information is different from gorging yourself The desire to stay informed about the things of the world, of course, it is healthy and fair. It stops being so when you go from getting information to gorging yourself with news. Overexposure and overstimulation, especially if to particularly negative and dramatic events, and especially if conducted in solitude and compulsively, can trigger psychopathological mechanisms such as increased stress and prejudice for social confrontation with others. It is a somewhat normal phenomenon.

“When we are worried or overwhelmed by something - explains to US Megan E. Johnson, clinical psychologist and researcher specializing in trauma and relationships between brain and behavior - our brain tries to gather as much information as possible, to be in control of the situation: the idea is that if we have all the facts, we can make better decisions and protect ourselves from harm. This illusion of control and security, however, is a mistake. Because, simply, the sources of information are endless, and therefore our need can never be satisfied ".

What you have to try to do in this situation, then, is to impose yourself to limit the stimulations: choose only some media (preferably reliable), for example, and consult only those, and remember that it is the quality of information, and not its quantity, to give us a sense of greater security. Before the invention of printing, there were relatively few books in circulation: over a lifetime it was perhaps possible to acquire a large part of the knowledge produced by mankind up to that moment (see the good Salimbene of Parma); now we are in the diametrically opposite extreme, and it is unthinkable to try to be constantly updated and informed about everything.

Establishing limits It is a corollary of the previous suggestion: a strategy as simple as it is effective to counter doomscrolling is to establish spatial and temporal limits for the consumption (a word that is anything but casual) of news. So, for example: browse the newspapers only for breakfast, consult social networks only after business hours, strictly turn off the phone one hour before going to sleep.

Building, in short, a physical barrier that keeps technology and social media away from one's free time and one's space of comfort. Also because it is well known that the light from backlit devices makes it more difficult to fall asleep and ruins the quality of sleep.

Beware of confirmation bias The British call it confirmation bias, which can be translated as "confirmation bias". Words that, in practice, translate into a very simple concept: we like to hear what we already know, and we tend to seek confirmation of what we already believe. This is a well-known and studied psychological mechanism, which has implications and not indifferent implications in the field of disinformation and fake news.

The fact that we are only looking for information that corroborates what we want to hear makes it very difficult for us to change our minds, and there is no fact-checking that matters (as indeed he had revealed, in less suspicious times, an extensive Italian study conducted by Walter Quattrociocchi's team). This phenomenon only fuels the doomscrolling: I am convinced of certain things and I want to compulsively search for all the information that confirms what I believe. How to get out? One possibility, for example, is to try to find arguments that go against your beliefs, believe them and try to support them. A kind of solo chess game, essentially. And then, of course, to seek a constructive and open confrontation, as free of prejudices as possible, with people who think differently.

Anxiety and fear are "normal" We are human beings. And we have to accept that we are fallible. To have fragility, fears, insecurities, all the more so in a historical moment like this. When you can't manage these feelings in a healthy way, the best strategy is certainly not to isolate yourself and scroll through the newspaper and social media feed, bulimically swallowing bad news. The most effective answer, when we realize that our fears paralyze us and lead us to unhealthy, avoidant and self-nourishing behaviors, is to ask for help from a professional. There is nothing to be ashamed of, and there is nothing healthier.

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