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Your Phone is an Evil Enemy

How much time do you spend on your phone? On average, people spend 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phones. They check their phones 58 times a day and half of these checks are during office hours. Philippinos are on average the heaviest users (5 hours and 30 minutes average) and Japanese are the lightest (1 hour and 39 minutes). South Africans are tied for fourth with Colombia with 5 hours and 9 minutes.

So what are we doing on our phones? During the COVID pandemic, the term doomscrolling was penned. It is the act of spending an excessive amount of screen time devoted to the absorption of negative news. It wasn't just the pandemic that got us hooked on negative news, it was also the US Presidential Elections in 2020, the George Floyd protests, the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol, and the 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Putin.

So why this obsession with negative news? Humans have a negativity bias. This goes back to our caveman origins where our brain was wired to be on the lookout for things that could kill us - such as hungry saber-toothed tigers. Social media algorithms are programmed to cater to this negativity bias. For example, common searches on Google are related to medical conditions. When you have a medical question - for example, you are worried about a strange-looking mole on your finger - and you assume that the answer will make you feel better. You keep scrolling and scrolling, and before you know it you come to the conclusion that you have skin cancer and going to die in 6 months.

So what is the impact of doomscrolling? As you can imagine, the impact is not positive. It will not help you from being consumed alive by a large hungry animal. It makes you anxious, stressed, fearful, depressed and isolated. You will be more vulnerable to panic attacks. Another problem is that this fixation on doom can be addictive. It can disrupt sleep patterns and cause overeating.

One way to liberate yourself from the evil claws of doomscrolling is not to throw your phone away. We all know it is a powerful tool in our business and personal lives. The best solution is to avoid negative news altogether. In a Washington Post op-ed, journalist Amanda Ripley admitted to avoiding the news, writing that people producing news themselves are struggling, and while they are unlikely to admit it, it is warping their coverage of the news. She also identified ways she believes could fix the problem, such as intentionally adding more hope, agency, and dignity into stories so readers don't feel so helpless which leads them to the out entirely.


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