Outside the binary of doom-scrolling and oblivion

Photo of person holding a phone.
Photo of person holding a phone.
Contributed image

The mid-50-year-olds in my life always say that they doom scroll as soon as they wake up in the morning. It’s a habit that they also recognize the need to stop. From burning forests and wars, to shootings and political drama, the sadness and tensions of the world are inescapable for them. 

Simultaneously, my inherent naïveté and blissful ignorance see the burning forests and wars as existing lifetimes away, the shootings and political drama as realities – but not my own. This lack of awareness is not a characteristic only limited to myself: I recognize it in my friends and peers as well. 

So, while those belonging to Generation X need to separate a bit from the news, much of our own generation, still fresh-faced and ever hopeful, need to wake up to it. 

2022 research from the Media Insight Project shows that while 79 per cent of American Gen Z and Millennials get their news daily, only 29 per cent actively seek it out. Current affairs tend to not be information that we go out of our way to look for, but information that we simply happen to come across. 

It is true that in comparison to many other eras, the young adults of today are significantly more attuned to current affairs. But it is no coincidence that we are constantly exposed to the ongoings of the world with our increased engagement on social media. 

According to the same data from the Media Insight Project, 71 per cent of American Gen Z and Millennials get their daily news from social media platforms, and 91 per cent of them get it on social media at least weekly. 

But once again, our generation doesn’t actively seek out the news. It’s everywhere, at all times, and we have simply become numb to it. 

Those that do not look to read the news may indeed be aware of how negative it can be and are avoiding it accordingly. Generation X is pained by quite the opposite problem, an inability to detach themselves from depressing world events. 

But rooted in our younger generation’s numbness and avoidance of the news, there may be an ingrained form of selfishness. Humans are exceedingly self-involved, a fact that is not new nor something to be ashamed of. It’s in our DNA, from having to prioritize our own survival so that natural selection would not wipe us out.  

As students, we haven’t even reached full maturity yet, so it’s no surprise that we are wrapped up in our own problems only. Personal issues, from overbearing parents, to dating disasters, to stressful jobs or courses are understandably and justifiably consuming. 

But here’s the thing – we are also wired for collaboration and even compassion, having needed to work in a group of other hunter-gatherers in order to thrive. Caring about others is a characteristic that comes naturally, especially as we grow older. 

One of humanity’s challenges is arguably finding a balance between our two tendencies of absolute selfishness and caring to the point of mentally draining ourselves. 

Right now, I see Gen Z as teetering on the side of self-absorption and lack of awareness. As I said before, we can’t exactly be blamed for this: Life is hard, we are young, and compared to other decades we are relatively more globally conscious. 

But maybe we should try to meet Gen X in the middle, maintaining a sense of compassion, caring and awareness of world issues, but not at the cost of our own sanity. 

Essential to this balance is a recognition of our reliance on social media for news. The same as how we should set boundaries with people, we need to set boundaries on our engagement with the online sphere. 

Check the news a couple times every day, but not first thing in the morning. Instead of mindlessly processing dozens of headlines, stop and reflect on just a few. There are many ways of consciously improving our relationship with the news, and they apply to everyone, not just to the ignorant teenagers or the pessimistic newspaper-readers.

It’s a scary, complex world of information out there – but we have a responsibility to try our best to make sense of it all, for our own sakes. 

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