Doom Scrolling Through Life
Doom scrolling describes the mindless passive consumption mode entered when technology at the fingertips becomes addictive and endless. The connectivity of the internet and particularly social media allow bottomless feeding of content from contacts, companies, advertisers, and filler. The point is to lose the self, to take a mental break, “to relax” the user tells themself. Scrolling is justified, since to stay informed is important—the news, areas of interest, and specific hobbies are featured and compounded by an algorithm that is designed to hook the users. Content providers and marketers are happy to indulge in producing quantity to increase their engagement while creating a habit in its users. Psychological tricks are taken to maximize consumerism, while users are content to consume. Attention spans become trained to be short, the work of the user is merely to perceive, and the only thing asked is for the user to like and follow—for the purpose of liking and following more.
This passive consumption parallels characteristics of living a non-philosophical life.
One is content to be shown how to live, to follow passively, to fall into habits. It is comforting and easy to avoid thinking, worrying, and actively exploring and questioning what it is to be human, what values to live by, even whether it is good to conform or rebel. Freedom comes with risk and responsibility, so while claiming to enjoy freedom is what one does, the freedoms of thinking, doing, and being are heavy burdens. It is a little secret everyone keeps, everyone knows everyone else keeps it, but no one would like to acknowledge: passive living is nice. The routine, being told what is what, and doing what is expected is like the nostalgia for a comfy blanket on the couch—low risk, low responsibility, while maximizing the feel good hormone doses of preference.
Pausing is avoided, since noise fills the space and allows ignorance, even apathy towards the pursuits of philosophy. Active thinking is avoided, since freedom of thought comes with risk and responsibility. What if someone asks for an argument or is offended by raising a voice and saying something which does not conform to the social agreements? Safer to follow. Breaking habits fights social conformity and is an upstream battle. The expectations of parents and friends were likely formed by their parents and friends, so they were good enough to be inherited, one does not suppose, since one avoids pausing to think about it. Go to school, get a job, get married, have children—just for them to repeat the cycle.
There is easily a mask of care assumed by this way of living: one deceives oneself into thinking one cares about what one ought to care about. To follow the news of wars in another land or the state of a global pandemic, to be informed of innovations and advancements, to take interest in social justice concerns or particular arts and hobbies; these can all seem to be valuable uses of one’s attention. Yet the passive positioning of the consumer of this information allows one to rather space out than to care in a way that changes one’s way of life. Just like social media asks one to like and share a black square to make the user feel as if they are doing their part to contribute towards some good, one develops their methods to do a little task that likewise feels rewarding and hides the emptiness. Contributing occasional tasks of volunteer work, raising a piece of news in dinner conversation, or teaching the next generation are enough to easily allow bad faith. Doom scrolling through life employs this bad faith to cover for apathy regarding critical thinking, questioning what should be done with one’s years, critiquing the values and priorities of family and friends before adopting them as one’s own, and caring about global affairs only as much as it directly affects oneself.