Opinion | How to be a responsible news consumer

There is a good way for us to be consuming and reading news and there is a way that is detrimental. It is time we stop doing the latter.


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Old man busy using mobile phone at home while sleeping on sofa – concept of senior people using technology, internet and social media

Peter Anders, Opinions Columnist

We are in a digital epidemic — doomscrolling.

Doomscrolling, the tendency we have to spend long periods of time reading negative news — often news with sensationalized headlines — kicked into high gear during the onset of the COVID-19 lockdowns, when people had too much time on their hands to read news. Even with over a year of distance from COVID-19’s onset, many people are still doomscrolling.

For instance, if someone were to Google “COVID-19 winter cases,” they would be greeted by an article warning them that winter could see a spike in cases. As explained in an article by Metro, a study was done early in the pandemic that showed the more news people consumed relating to current events, the worse they felt about life in general.

People generally do not consume news appropriately, and instead tend to search out news sources that agree with their preconceived opinions. If an article takes a viewpoint the reader does not agree with, chances are the reader will seek out a different article.

That creates an echo chamber for the reader, dissuading them from hearing opposing or more optimistic viewpoints. The same applies to the aforementioned “doomscrolling,” as the reader will sometimes panic and read articles that only increase their anxiety.

Oftentimes, people tend to get so absorbed in the news cycle because they feel unable to change or control the outcome of the world. This is not entirely wrong, as most occurrences in the world are well beyond our control, but those feelings are amplified when people feel it’s entirely their fault they are not doing something to fight it.

The ultimate question is: How do we fight the urge to doomscroll? It is not a universal solution, but a good method is to place artificial blocks on the amount of time spent reading or watching the news. Instead of allowing yourself to get caught up spending three hours reading Politico, make an alarm that goes off at the hour mark and you do not allow yourself to read longer than that.

Another way is simply to go outside when the urge returns, listen to music, or even read a book. Negative news consumption is an addiction much like any other and the solutions to fighting it are oftentimes like how we fight other addictions. Volunteer for local politics but do not let yourself get too invested if you want to do something about it.

Most importantly, the best way to fight doomscrolling is to not read news primarily on social media. Social media posts are usually meant to elicit a reaction to get you to click on them, but it’s too easy to simply read the headline and start to panic. Not to mention, there are sometimes outright lies. Before you panic, read the article and make sure it is from a trustworthy news source.

There are many bad things in the world without question, but the good things that happen every day do not always make the news. Things going as normal is not newsworthy. We need to figure out a better way for each of us to consume news, and respond to it, because the epidemic of doomscrolling has consequences that could be damaging to us individually and as a society.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.