The spread of COVID-19 makes these frightening, uncertain times, and the concerning news is crashing over us in towering waves that just keep coming. One of the things I’m struggling to manage is my intake of information. We need to stay on top of things. We need to be informed and prepared. We need to know, but we don’t need to know absolutely everything right away. Like a lot of people worried about the pandemic and what it means personally, locally, nationally and globally, I’ve been doom scrolling. I don’t think it’s the best thing for my mental health, and I decided last night to limit my social media activity and news consumption.
I get a lot of my news from Twitter. It’s a good place to follow journalists and news sites for quick updates. The same goes for cultural critics and other commentators who can add nuance and perspective to current affairs. I’ve learned a lot from the people I follow on Twitter, and I find the site and the interactions I have on it valuable. I’m an aggressive muter and blocker. I don’t want foolishness in my feed. From the beginning, I’ve curated my Twitter feed pretty carefully to cull bigots, trolls, and other undesirables. Even so, the site can devolve into a hellscape of scorchingly bad takes pretty quickly when a controversial topic trends. The COVID-19 pandemic touches a lot of hot buttons. For example, the sinophobia has been turned up to 11. People I thought would have known better have dived in head first into some pretty troubling anti-Chinese rhetoric. People are exposing themselves. It’s made it a good time to take stock and trim my “following” list even more.
It’s not just about the quality of information (whether it’s accurate, antiracist, etc.). It’s about the sheer volume I’ve been consuming. Instead of steadily consuming dribs and drabs constantly during the day. I’m going to try to get my information in spurts of a few minutes: once in the morning, once at midday, and once at night. It would be good to take at least an entire day off, but many of us all over the world need to know if there are emergency alerts.
The kind of entertainment I consume will probably have to change as well. I like dark murder mysteries. They’re too much of a downer now, though. So is anything with graphic violence. The streaming menus are places where doom scrolling can happen too. I’m trying to find lighter programming, listen to more music, and read more.
None of us knows how the COVID-19 pandemic will end. There will likely be profound shifts in the balance of power in the world. The United States and the United Kingdom have bungled their responses so spectacularly, an honest-to-goodness economic depression may emerge. It’s frightening to contemplate. It’s not something that can be turned away from, though. We have to look. Just not every single second of every single day.