How to Stop Scrolling Coronavirus News for Like 5 Minutes
The coronavirus pandemic can lead to an obsession with checking our phones. Here’s how to change your news habit.
We try to make sense of the biggest news event of our lifetime, it feels natural, even calming, to turn to one of our most trusted habits: the flick, scroll, click. It’s been there for us in times of anxiety, of boredom, of grief — the mindless, calming power of immersing ourselves in the internet.
But right now, what feels like a self-soothing act is anything but: Each shocking link ratchets up our emotions and gives the middle finger to the prefrontal cortex of our brains, which helps regulate our emotions and make sound decisions.
And we’re wired to keep that going. Our infinite scroll creates a dopamine loop — you seek pleasure, get a reward, repeat.
Don’t forget that feeds are also engineered by algorithms that deliver images and ads created specifically for us, conjuring the sense that each photo or news morsel — whether a video of dopes continuing to enjoy mimosas al fresco or a shady ad for immune-boosting pills — is highly relevant and urgent.
While we practice social distancing, we can keep a bit of distance from the news, too. Because news will always find a way to reach us. It will come through email, emoji-laden group text threads, peeks at homepages, conversations overhead in the produce aisle. And just like the 36-count of Shin Cup ramen packets my boyfriend and I recently ordered on Amazon, this news should be carefully rationed. You can be an informed, intelligent, and prepared citizen without spending six hours a day with your mouth agape in front of the news fire hose.
Right now, despite the chaos, we’re largely in anticipation phase. Updates and statistics will come at us for weeks and months, if China and Italy are any indication. We can’t afford to burn out now on the news, not when staying up to…