Doomscrolling is a prevalent behavior in America, and probably the rest of the world, too. I love this word. I firmly believe that it is destined to be Miriam-Webster’s word of the year (you read it here first!). Doomscrolling is the act of reading an article, post, meme, or a piece of clickbait and then clicking on a link from that source to another article that further delves into the same subject. Oh – and for it to genuinely qualify as doomscrolling, the issue has to be about TEOTWAWKI: The End of the World as We Know It. And you have to do it just long enough to start feeling nauseated. Other symptoms include developing a tic, like slowly shaking your head back and forth, or yelling profanity out loud, or spontaneously reading a doomscrolling piece out loud, even if 1) no one wants to hear it, or 2) there’s nobody in the room.
Look – I recognize these patterns because, yes, I am a doomscroller. I can’t help it. I go down the rabbit hole without complaint or apology. And as I stew in the worry and the scorn and the disbelief, I wonder: how did I get here?
Indeed, how DID I get here? And, speaking as an American citizen, how did we get here? In this odd place where one half of the country understands reality in a very different way than the other half, I mean here. This is not a rhetorical question. I don’t have an answer to unveil with much pomp and circumstance and drumrolls.
I grew up in the time of the Vietnam war struggle. I witnessed the battle for civil rights. I was party to the energy of the first wave of feminism. I was at the first Earth Day. Those times felt so dynamic, so filled with drama. But it never felt as bad as it does now. I don’t ever remember feeling quite so lost as I am now at the bottom of my doomscrolling well.
There is no easy path to find a bridge that we can all agree is mutually safe and sturdy. There’s just so much unease and such a lack of trust. It boggles my mind. I keep searching my memory for some hook, some means to get out of the doomscrolling.
How do we find a bridge? I don’t know. But maybe that’s no longer the top priority. Perhaps the thing to focus on is the work that must be done, no matter who is in power. The climate is in trouble right now. Systemic racism will still exist. The injustice we see will always be painfully limiting. Covid will continue to spread.
If it’s true that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” then we have to be involved in the physics of it all. A moral universe is not something to be discovered; it’s something that must be created. By us.
Rodney King once plaintively asked, “Why can’t we all just get along?” If that’s always been an operant question, then this year, it is louder than ever. It’s become the leitmotif of the 21st century.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Spend a little less time head down in doomscrolling and a little more time with your head up; keep your eye on the sparrow. And as Stacy Abrams said, “Remember this in the darkest moments, when the work doesn’t seem worth it, and change seems just out of reach: out of our willingness to push through comes a tremendous power… use it.”