Viewpoint: Dr. Larry Burriss, Doomsurfing

Memo Note Post Appointment Meeting Reminder


     Here’s a question or two for you: you’ve read the latest Covid statistics, and you see the numbers are going up. What are you going to do about it?
     Or, try this one: you’ve seen another news story about riots, or are they demonstrations, and the Republicans are assigning blame, and the Democrats are assigning blame to someone else. Which group is telling you the truth, and is there anything you can do about what either side is saying?
     The answer to both of these questions is an unequivocal, “No,” or “I don’t have a clue.”
     If these are the kinds of activities you engage in throughout the day, then you are the victim of yet another problem facing your life: “doomscrolling.”
     Doomscrolling, sometimes called doomsurfing, is the tendency to find bad new we already believe, then find another web site that will verify your “facts,” then find yet another site that will offer yet further confirmation.
     But as you might expect, there is some good news and bad news about all of this, well, bad news.
     First, we seem to be hard wired through evolution to seek out bad news over good news. After all, if you are a hunter-gatherer, you can safely ignore that cute chipmunk on the forest floor. Ignoring the tiger hiding in the grass, not so smart.
     And you will, of course, want to keep track of that tiger by constantly watching it.
     The same thing applies to modern life.
     Unfortunately, constantly reading bad news gets us into a downward spiral that just reinforces itself.
     Fortunately, there is a way out of this trap. Don’t ignore the bad news, but don’t obsess on it either. For most of us, there is absolutely nothing we can do about national politics or national infection rates.
     The trick may be as simple as putting away all of your screens for a while, and finding something good to think about.
     I’m Larry Burriss.

Larry Burriss, a professor in Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Mass Communication and president of the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, welcomes the crowd before the induction ceremonies at the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters conference in Murfreesboro for the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)