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I sometimes find myself scrolling mindlessly through my social media accounts. I think that’s a problem. Would you agree?

I suspect any parent would answer this question with a resounding, “Of course that’s a problem!” But if we take the shiny digital device out of this picture, would you also say that mindlessly weeding a garden is a problem? I don’t knit, but as I watch some people do it while carrying on an intelligent conversation, it doesn’t appear to be a problem for them.

But if it’s doomscrolling you’re doing, that could be a problem.

Doomscrolling, sometimes called doomsurfing, is a new-ish word to describe the practice of scrolling through your social media feeds looking for negative material: troubling headlines, horrific news photos, and graphs that prove we are indeed living in the worst possible times.  We’re naturally drawn to them all.

Social media is designed for endless scrolling, of course, but it’s our brains that are wired to notice anything that might pose a threat—our survival depends on it. These days, there’s lots to grab our attention.

In the real world, noticing the occasional car coming dangerously close to us is one thing, but it’s another thing to believe every car anywhere is a threat. Likewise, doomscrolling can cause anxiety and lead to depression.

Acknowledging this bad habit is a good first step. The next time you grab your phone and launch into your social media, ask yourself what it is you plan to do once you’re in. And after that lost hour of scrolling, ask yourself what caught and kept your attention. Was it everyday stuff of interest, or did it lean more toward the dark side? Take heed.

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