There’s always something I feel I should give up. Trashy TV, sugar, and toast are just a few of the addictions I wage war on and now, I have added doom scrolling to the list. This is the term used to describe those who endlessly scroll through social media in search of negative news – in this instance, the so-called ‘military operation’ in Ukraine.
I’ve found the whole business to be a total head f*** to be honest. Nothing makes sense. It’s all so tragically pointless and the degree of human suffering is unbearable….at least as unbearable as it can be when you have the luxury of living life without having to worry about a shell hitting your home or getting shot on the way to the shops.
My spiritual mentor Marion always warns us to be wary of what we feed our minds on. The news contaminates thought. I get this and I am, or at least was an avid news avoider, which sounds a bit crazy given that I am a journalist!
But now I find myself checking in with British journalist John Sweeney (@johnsweeneyroar) on Twitter each morning. He greets me wearing his lucky orange hat and gives an update on the latest from Kyiv. He is a brilliant journalist and a sensitive writer. His reports are full of heart and that’s the problem…I tear up every time.
And then there’s the rolling BBC News with its videos, reports, and updates virtually in real-time. The unfolding horrors make me feel sick and full of despair. There is nothing I can do to help, so why watch? It pains me to say this, but part of me is addicted to the stress response I get every time I read a new headline.
There have been wars raging all over the world before this and I haven’t paid much attention – Syria, Afghanistan, Chechnya…they are places synonymous with gunfire and artillery. This time though, it is a European country with a charismatic leader who makes heartfelt speeches worthy of an Oscar and has kind eyes. It shouldn’t make any difference. The suffering in Syria is no different from that in Ukraine.
That makes me feel guilty. Why haven’t I paid attention? How have we allowed this? Why do women stand back while men ruin the world with their ridiculous ‘my bombs/balls are bigger than yours!’ rubbish? A barrage of questions and not a comforting answer in sight.
In Russia, it is becoming increasingly hard, if not impossible, to watch an impartial news channel. You either digest state propaganda or go to prison. I am lucky to live in a country where freedom of speech is the norm, which makes me think I should watch the news and be grateful that I have access to it.
The news has also spurred me into some small actions. I donated items to a local Ukrainian woman who is taking a van out to Poland and I gave money to the Red Cross. I’ve never given money to the Red Cross before. Why not? Because I don’t watch much news and therefore had little or no interest in the causes they support.
The answer to most conundrums in my life is moderation and this is no different. Too much news is a bad thing. I am going to rein myself in and check the news daily. Once. No more doom scrolling until midnight. I also need to keep meditating and opening my heart. I can see the irony of condemning a war on the one hand and feeling like I want to shoot the person who nipped into the last parking spot, on the other. Doom scrolling has made me increasingly short-tempered. Rage is contagious you see, but then again, so is love.