Today I noticed myself scrolling past multiple headlines of articles covering civilian casualties in Ukraine, without much emotion. Which alarmed me… once I realized what I was doing.

The consistent stream of horrific headlines about the war in Ukraine, in my multiple newsfeeds that are always buzzing with notifications, made me start to tune out the atrocities of the war altogether today. Only for a few minutes, but it did happen.

This was shocking to me because I like to think of myself as deeply humanitarian. And because I am an empath in so many ways.

And there I was, casually scrolling past stories with images of bombed out residential buildings, newborn babies in underground shelters, an elderly man with a giant bloody gash on his forehead traversing a street filled with rubble, a soon-to-be corpse of a pregnant woman on a stretcher, and a nine-year-old girl holding a rifle while sucking on a lollipop.

Now I know the details of those stories because I eventually forced myself to go back and take a closer look.

Why did I do that? Casually scroll by human suffering?

Because my news stream is set up in a way that makes me tune out the horrors of war?

Or was it because my news stream is supposed to shock me and entertain me to get my attention. Yet it no longer could because my newsfeed was already saturated with so many shocking headlines. So much so that they almost started to become mundane to the “tuned in” scroller like me. The scroller who perfects each algorithm with each click and like, even if they don’t want to.

Had I become desensitized to the war in Ukraine already? As negotiations are still underway? Before Biden even takes his trip to Brussels next week?

Did I do this because of extreme fatigue from doomscrolling through all the horrific and madenning headlines of the pandemic and insurrection and elections from the past several years?

I’m pretty sure why I did what I did has to do with some kind of mixture of all the above, really. Some kind of pre-apocolyptic techno cocktail perhaps?

And I know I’m not the only one doomscrolling either, or checking out from time to time, which provides a bit of comfort. So I will try not to get too self-loathing here.

However, I must admit that it would be more comforting to covert doomscrolling into “fact-based, genuinely human, forward-moving scrolling”. That’s obviously a term that needs to be a work in progress. But I think you know what I mean.

Regardless of the reason, or mixture of reasons, I know I don’t want to casually scroll through archives of war anymore. Including those wars that aren’t in Ukraine, as well.

I suppose this is easier said than done. Newsfeed algorithms are effective. I am not naive. But…

Is there a way to ensure you don’t ever become desensitized to the Ukrainian war?

I would like to think so. Wouldn’t you?

Moving forward, in an effort to stay sensitized, I will always pause on graphic images of people and their home landscapes and cities for at least five to ten seconds. Even if I don’t read the headlines associated with those images.

Or I will save all articles with graphic images involving war to read at one time. So while I am reading them, they will get my full attention and I will be able to memorialize the people in them, in my heart and thoughts. As a human.

And, most importantly, while I consume these images, I will also search for happier photos to mirror the devastating ones. For example, if I see a photo of a child with a limb blown off from a bomb, I will find a photo of a child from that same country using their similar limbs to play a sport with their friends outdoors in the sun.

It seems as if we have to start monitoring our own doomscrolling tendencies nowadays, or our complete ambivalence to everyday horrors that saturate our screens. The above will allow for more intentional scrolling and consuming, so you don’t check out.

Do you have any ideas for how to ensure you don’t get desensitized while scrolling through headlines about war? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page!

I’m Currently Reading:

  • The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark
  • Missionaries by Phil Klay
  • The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery by Sam Kean
  • The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

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