Doom Scrolling Dilemma: Haunted By Screen

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Doom Scrolling Dilemma: Haunted By Screen

The sun was setting, and the campus was crawling with dark, but glowing light. Ansha sat under the huge banyan tree behind the mechanical department, with her friends who were laughing and talking about how to spend their holidays after the finals that started in less than two weeks. 

But it felt like someone had turned down the volume around her and the light that hit her friends’ faces, didn’t seem to be shining on her. Her palms felt sweaty as she realised the amount of pending works that hung over her head. 

Not less than ten minutes ago, the scholarship she applied to informed her that she wouldn’t be eligible if she failed the exams of this semester. 

She managed to lift her head a little, “Guys, I’m going home.” 

The four of them fell silent. Ansha’s home was a 2-hour train ride away. She stayed at the college dorms with two of her four friends as roommates. 

“But it’s not the weekend,” Kriti said. 

“I don’t think I’m feeling well.” A small throbbing bloomed inside Ansha’s head. Kriti placed her hand over Ansha’s. She was one of the first people Ansha met on campus, and they’ve helped each other out ever since. 

“Is it about what our HoD said? About your pending assignments?” 

Ansha nodded, a hand went to her head so that it might not fall and roll off from the pressure. Without the scholarship, she believed she would be a burden to her parents.

Kriti looked at the others who also looked perplexed. Seems like it had slipped their minds that Ansha was the only one in a helpless state. 

“It’s doable,” Millie pushed her glasses up her nose. “Don’t worry, you can do it.” She frowned and nodded, “We’ll not take up your time then, we can do that, right guys?” 

The others nodded. The assignments were not something they could help her complete, but one thing they could do is not waste her time with chill sessions and the outings they frequently had. 

Ansha’s heart felt heavy but she nodded, “Yeah.” 

“But you have to stay here, so we can look after you.” It was common knowledge among the students that it was easier to get distracted at home. 

Millie, the planner friend of the five, helped her make a list of the things she had to do and in what order to complete it. They also decided to not bring friends over to their dorm room for one week so that Ansha might have a place to do her work in peace.  

And so, the plan was set. The light of hope around her still seemed dark, but by 7 o’clock that evening, she sat down to start her long line of work. 

Millie and Avani, her roommates, decided to sleep in Kriti’s room. 

The clock’s hands continued its usual rounds and Ansha completed page after page, her headache temporarily subdued with a mild painkiller. 

She silenced her phone, but still had to check it from time to time for reference materials.

At 8:03, her phone on the bed vibrated. 

Ansha shook her head and continued writing. 

Less than twenty seconds later, it vibrated again, and again. 

Her mind was stirred. “Must be someone important.” 

She turned around and the lock screen met her tired eyes. “@kr.eatii added a photo to their story.” 

“@milliethv added a video to their story” 

Ansha frowned and was about to keep the phone away, when the screen lit up again, baring its teeth, trying to get her to just… open the app. 

“@av.nash shared a new reel recently.” 

Ansha raised an eyebrow. “He posted another one? Didn’t he just post one yesterday?” She had seen the reel, and also dropped a like out of habit.

She grabbed the phone and shifted to the bed as the app opened up, taking her to Avinash’s page, where he mostly posted his self-written songs and videos of him playing the electric guitar.

There was no new reel except the one posted the day before, but Ansha watched it again. She went back to the home page where her friends’ stories floated on top. Her fingers clicked them and her heart dropped as she saw them having fun in Kriti’s dorm, wearing silly outfits and drinking something Ansha had never seen before. Why did they have to try new stuff without her? 

But she decided to shrug it off. Then their group chat blew up, with her friends sending texts and reels and posts. She opened them and watched them all, a laugh escaping her now and then. 

Somewhere in the middle of it, her head throbbed a little harder and she reached for another pill, which sat next to the mini-clock silently judging her. 

10:00 PM. 

“What the–” She checked with her phone, in case the clock was broken, and it was true. Two hours had sprinted in front of her own eyes. 

Her intestines felt like it was starting to form knots. 

She immediately switched off the phone and threw it on the bed, swallowed a pill, and sat to work again. 

 

Half an hour later, sleep started to make its way through. As much as she tried to fight it, her eyes were begging to close and her body was starting to get stubborn. She cross-checked the To-do list, and unsurprisingly, she hadn’t met today’s agenda. 

She was lagging in something she was already lagging in. 

Great job Ansha. 

“I’ll just wake up early tomorrow.” 

She half-heartedly completed her night chores and fell into bed. 

Her phone buzzed, tugging her hair. Ansha gritted her teeth and set it on DnD before setting an alarm for 5:30 AM on the mini-clock. 

 

She was never used to waking up that early, so it wasn’t surprising that the alarm floated right over her head. When she opened her eyes, it was 7 AM and her two roommates were in the room, getting ready for class. 

Ansha groggily woke up. “What time is it?” 

“Seven,” Avani said, “How’s it going? Are you attending classes today?” 

Ansha shook her head. “I don’t think so. What did you guys drink yesterday?” 

Avani and Millie exchanged a glance and they giggled, “It’s this trending new juice. We can try it again after exams, with you.” 

Ansha smiled and they both left, leaving a trail of major FOMO in their tracks. 

It was hard to find the will to continue to work, but she wasn’t going to give up so easily. 

It was the weekend, so if she tried a bit harder, she might be able to finish ahead of schedule.

She sat on her chair, tied her hair up and started again. 

Hours flipped by, and she was making progress. She caught up with the lag of the day before and finished two more assignments than expected, although they were minor assignments. The next one was a research-based project. That was going to take time. 

She decided to take a break and submit the ones she had finished so far. 

So she grabbed her phone and her assignments, and stepped out. 

One of the professors was late today, so she was told to wait outside his office. She sat down and took out her phone to start the research online. 

“You have missed messages from @kr.eatii, @tharaa908 and 2 others” 

She clicked on the notification and opened Kriti’s chat. It was a reel, and under it, “This is SO YOU.” Ansha opened the reel and laughed before scrolling to the next one, and the next, and the next. Then her mind shifted. Her goal changed from “Let’s research for my assignment” to “I’ll just watch some until the professor’s here.” 

The professor took 45 minutes to arrive. He had clocked in half an hour earlier, and an unexpected meeting had occupied him. Once he arrived, she gave in her assignment and he gave his feedback on it. 

“Please do it on time next sem.” 

“Yes sir,” Ansha said, but it came out as a meek whisper. She made her way back, continuing with the reels till she reached her room. 

Then, her mother called from home. Inevitably, she asked how the scholarship process was going. The knots in her stomach developed further at that one question. 

“Y-yeah, good. I just have to submit a couple more documents and a letter of recommendation.”

Her mom nodded and they talked for a while. By the time the call ended, her hands felt cold. 

There was still much to do. 

And she hadn’t even started studying for the exams yet. 

That’s when her fingers automatically clicked where the social media app icon is, like how everyone’s brains nowadays have memorised where the most used apps are on their phone. 

Alarming news about the current forest fires in Canada popped up on her feed. Concerned, she started watching the horrifying clips captured by citizens, and even found one happening live. She felt herself drowning in the entire situation, like she was actually there. Her heart hurt. By the time she had started working on her research paper again, her heart was at unease. 

Every half an hour, she decided to take a break and check up on what was happening currently, and if there was any way she could help. On the other side, there were people in the comments spreading misinformation, so she would do parallel online searches to see if they were true. 

In the background, the servers connecting to her phone were silently noting down her searches, knowing that it had started. 

The next morning, she woke up staring right into a sump overflowing with recommendations related to it in her Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and what not.  Now it wasn’t just about the disastrous forest fires, but also news clips of interviews, of previous instances and how this could have been avoided. 

Her mornings used to be peaceful and pleasant, but nowadays she wakes up with the strain of her approaching submissions as well as the vivid images and provoking language of the circulating videos. 

She flies to her phone to check up on the current situation and if there was any related press release. This directed her to a forum where people were talking about it. For now, she was a silent observer. 

As the day passed, she started adding her own opinions, and by the end of the day, she was completely engrossed in the conversation.

She saw posts about the past but frequent forest fires in Australia and read up on them, going on a separate spiral of information. 

Ansha doesn’t realise it, but her fingers are doing only one thing, constantly flicking upwards.

Doomscrolling. 

Only three days were left for the exam and as Ansha kept Millie’s to-do list and her own progress side by side, her hands were freezing in fear. She wondered if that’s how the people of Kelowna or Yellowknife felt when they saw the blazing leaves of the trees that had been green for so long. 

Coincidentally, Millie called. 

“Hey,” she greeted her friend meekly. 

“Hi,” Ansha replied back, like they were talking for the first time, it had been days since they actually talked. 

“How’s it going?” 

“Fine.” 

Millie was silent on the other end. “You’re constantly online, whenever I check. On Instagram, your Twitter reposts…” 

“Can’t take breaks?” Ansha laughed. 

“Yeah but, Kriti told me you weren’t done with your research paper yet. According to the list, that was supposed to be over and submitted two days ago.” 

This time Ansha was silent on her end. 

“Ansha, I’m really scared for you at this point, that’s why I called to check up. There’s a lot to study for the finals too and you know you can’t fail right–” 

“I know,” Ansha gritted her teeth and hung up. Her cheeks felt wet and she wiped them off with the back of her hand before burying her hair inside her hands. She hadn’t washed for two days, and her head felt heavier than before. 

Her ‘friendly’ digital companion buzzed incessantly by her side. It was from the forum she had joined. 

The days flipped by on the calendar and somehow, Ansha moved forward from day to day. Her roommates Kriti and Avani moved back into the dorm again once exam seasons started and they all prepared together. 

Ansha never submitted a few of her assignments, including the major research paper. And her professor chased her for it. So now she had to do both the paper as well as study for the exams. 

When her friends weren’t there in the room, she would take ‘breaks’ and when they were, sometimes she’d talk about the interesting things she saw online.

“Ah Ansha, let’s talk about something happy please please. This subject is already depressing, we can’t add more depression to it. Should I order some food?” 

Avani grinned, “Yeah okay! Exactly what we need.”

Ansha sighed and smiled, “Yeah, okay go ahead.” 

Once the sixth and last exam was also over, Ansha made her way over to the professor to finally submit the assignment. She received no word from him. He just took it and dropped it on a pile. 

She thought she was on his good side earlier in the semester, now things looked glum. 

When she went home for the break, her parents noticed that she had lost weight.

She ate homely food, talked to her mother and father after a long time and her brother tried to bicker with her like always. 

But this time, Ansha just rolled her eyes in reply. “Whatever. There’s way worse things in the world than your useless talk.” 

Her brother retorted, but Ansha was silent. “Okay, I’m leaving the table first.” She picked up her plate and later went to her room and closed the door. 

Her brother was a little concerned. His sister usually had something clever to say back. 

“Our daughter has grown up. She knows how to deal with immature kids like you now,” her father joked. 

“Appa!” her brother whined, “I’m only one and a half years younger than her, O.K.?” 

Ansha’s family switched off the lights at 11:30 and went to sleep. A few hours later, her mother woke up to drink a glass of water. As she walked across the hall, she saw light shining through Ansha’s room door. She frowned groggily and checked the time on the kitchen clock. 

3:43 AM. 

“What is that girl doing this late…?” 

The next day, her father asked if she wasn’t going to meet up with her neighbourhood friends.

“Nah, they’re all busy,” Ansha shrugged, only glancing at him for a second before looking into the phone. 

Her brother walked past her with butterscotch ice cream in his hand, “Yo, I’m eating ice cream, want any?” 

Ansha shook her head absentmindedly. 

“It’s butterscotch bro.” 

“Mhmm.” 

Her brother was now very concerned. 

One day, her brother felt like she was probably dating someone online so he snatched her phone from her hands. Ansha screamed, and tried to grab it from him, but he was much taller than her. 

He didn’t expect what he saw. When he closed the Youtube app, and opened Whatsapp, there was a long line of not hearts, but unopened messages. He slowly gave the phone back to Ansha. 

“Your friends aren’t busy,” he realised. “You’re just not replying to them.” 

“Not your business, Armaan,” Ansha snapped. 

At this point, Ansha was just wrapped around the colourful world the internet had to offer. Funny videos, interesting stories, interesting people and creative vlogs and everything else that just made her feel at peace. An escape from the intense stress of the past three weeks. And the happiness in doing something that she could control, unlike the out-of-control state of her academics right now. 

Videos related to “How to Get Better at University” did pop up on her feed, but she purposely ignored them. In return, the app learns her preferences and pushes more of her liked content, making sure that she never leaves the phone. 

But once she put the phone down, either to eat at the table, or to take out the trash, or take a bath, her body felt like a deflated balloon. 

She felt like something was missing during times like that. One day, it got especially bothersome when the family had to go out to a relative’s wedding. 

Ansha had to give her phone to her cousins to take pictures and she was left without it for an hour. And during other events, it was just disrespectful to use the phone, so she had to avoid it. 

This was when she started thinking if she was getting addicted to the thing. 

“Oh, but college starts again next month. I’ll only get to unwind now,” and so she brushes it away. 

One morning, she woke up and found that there were zero notifications on her phone. 

The Wi-Fi had been cut off. 

She looked for her brother, who was in his room watching downloaded movies. 

“What’s up with the Wi-Fi?” 

“Dead.” 

“Yeah, why?” Ansha asked, getting annoyed. 

“No idea. Router’s acting weird.” 

Ansha muttered something and left her room. Armaan turned around to look at her stare at the router for a while and then leave. An hour later, he watched her walk out of the house. 

“Ma, I’m going to Millie’s house!” she called out and left. Her mother walked out of her room in perplexion. “You are?” 

Armaan smirked at the sight of his mother smiling like that for the first time since Ansha returned from college. 

Millie’s house was only a ten minute walk from Ansha’s, and they both went to buy ice-creams together.

“Butterscotch flavour for you, right?” 

“Yup,” Ansha answered and they walked in the hot sun, with caps on their head, and licking their ice-creams. 

“I was thinking of coming over to your house, actually. You never replied to any of my texts the last few days.” 

Ansha shrugged, “Wasn’t feeling like it. I’ll open them soon, don’t worry.” 

Millie half-hugged her as to silently tell her that it’s going to be okay. “It was nice talking to you after a long time. I’m really happy.” 

Ansha smiled in surprise. “You are?” 

“Yeah, I missed you. Don’t you think this is nice? Just walking out here in the breeze, breathing the fresh air of home, unlike the city pollution around our college, and spending time with your parents.” 

Ansha nodded slowly, feeling confused, because she couldn’t seem to relate, even though she knew she was supposed to. 

She returned home in the evening, her heart feeling full and refreshed. She understood that she didn’t get this feeling by sitting on her phone the entire day. 

Later at night, magically, the Wi-Fi came back on. When Ansha took her phone again, her mind felt relieved for a second, the dopamine in her brain reaching a peak point at the happiness of just getting to use the phone again, but then it plummeted and her body started to feel empty as she scrolled. 

Except this time, she felt aware of what was happening to her emotions. And she realised that was what was happening the entire time. And why, even though using her phone seemed like an escape, it left her feeling empty without it. 

But habits die hard, so she continued. 

As the days passed, her awareness only grew. Soon her inner conscience of not wanting to use the phone contradicted her brain forcing her to just use it to get that short-term satisfaction. 

And as the text and images moved across her eyes as she scrolled, it felt like she was in a fast moving train. Each video she scrolled, she was moving backward on this train, and it was picking up speed, making her tummy go sick. 

She flipped the phone on the bed and closed her eyes. 

“Millie.” 

Her body moved before she could process what was happening, and she got dressed to go meet her friend. She suggested they go out on another walk together and Millie could only be happy to agree.  

Ansha found it in herself to giggle, and listen to her stories and share a few of her own. She held her friend’s hand tight, like a rope that was rooting her to the ground. They ran around for fun, but her tummy didn’t feel sick at all. 

She returned home, feeling really refreshed again.

Armaan looked up from his textbook. “Nice to see you, stranger.” 

“Thank god I’m a stranger,” Ansha retorted, “I would rather jump off a cliff than be related to you.” She skipped her way into the room to take a bath. 

Armaan’s eyebrows lifted a little. “She’s back,” but then he heard sounds playing from her room and frowned, “I think.” 

Ansha had turned up the music and was organising her desk. Like always, notifications popped up. She decided to manage them and turn off notifications for lesser important things. In the process, she stumbled upon a video that seemed to strike way too close to home. 

“Are you a Doomscroller? TAKE THE QUIZ NOW” 

Not failing to take the bait, she clicked on it. After ten minutes of noting down her answers, the video informs her that she had passed the test. That yes, she was a doomscroller. 

It went on to list about how people who tend to doom scroll feel like they always need to be alert, and are always in a state of constant disappointment, even when looking at happy things. They feel detached from the human world, and much much more. 

She looked back upon how this had even started in the first place. 

The video also listed that people who have something out of their control going on in their life, are prone to doom scroll, as it helps them regain control over things, though unrelated. It was like an escape from their personal life’s real struggles. 

Reading that, Ansha realised that she hadn’t been able to socialise with her friends like before, nor her family members. 

“What have I done?” she stared at the screen, which went off automatically due to inactivity, leaving her to stare at her own reflection. 

Someone knocked on her door. 

She leaned forward and opened it before pausing the music. 

It was her brother, and he was holding a large, but dusty guitar in his hand. He was focused on wiping out the cake of dust. “Did you forget about this old man? You said you’d pick it up again once the holidays were here?” 

“I said that, didn’t I?” Ansha realises.

“Yeah, before you left for the first day of college.” 

Ansha’s eyes seemed to sparkle as she unzipped the cover of her ashwood guitar: one of her most prized possessions. Her brother slowly slipped out of the room. 

After a quick bath, Ansha realised she still had the urge to use the phone, so she did. 

This time, she searched for a guitar tuning app and placed the guitar on her lap like a long-lost baby and spent time with it before searching for advanced guitar chords to learn and wrote them down. 

Her parents passed by her room after hearing the guitar sounds, and they felt assured that she was finally doing something productive. 

Other videos still get recommended to her these days, and she does fall into them. 

When her brother sees it get worse, he just pulls out the plug of the Wi-Fi router, like he did the first time. 

Surprisingly, it always works. 

By the end of the month, Ansha mastered a couple of chords, and who knows, when she gets to college, she might continue learning. And maybe hope to impress Avinash? 

Her brother banged on her door once more. It was the last day at home before she left for college again. 

“And, one more thing, when you see something online, it’s probably clickbait. So read the title and think twice before actually clicking on it. Do you really need to watch it, or are you just giving into someone else’s marketing?” 

Ansha threw a pillow on his face, “Alright, wise-head, now get out. And close the door.” Armaan snickered and left the room door open. 

Jennifer Jogy is an undergraduate student pursing Architecture in GEC, Thrissur, Kerala. She grew up fascinated by fantasy fiction and reciting poetry as well as writing free verse as a way to explore new emotions. She is easy-going, but also responsible, and never does the same thing everyday. She loves to read, write, make art, scrap-journal, watch shows, listen to all genres of music and the list goes on. In the end, she wishes to discover a new piece of the world everyday and help others to do so too.
Jennifer Jogy
Writer
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A noun e-mouse
A noun e-mouse
Guest
9 months ago

Mhan as someone who is scared shitless of exams this gave me second hand anxiety 😂 😂 tho I have to say no bad kiddo. I really like armaan hope to read more from ya

Merick
Merick
Guest
9 months ago

Mhan as someone who is scared shitless of exams this gave me second hand anxiety tho I have to say no bad kiddo. I really like armaan hope to read more from ya

Sonam
Sonam
Guest
9 months ago

Well written 👍

Lakshmi
Lakshmi
Guest
9 months ago

Cool 🍂

Sanika KS
Sanika KS
Guest
9 months ago

Good work

Basil James
Basil James
Guest
9 months ago

Nicely written, There’s a Nice flow to the the writing 🙌🏻❤

aiswaryadas
aiswaryadas
Guest
9 months ago

Good work

Paul John
Paul John
Guest
9 months ago

❤️ ❤️

Aryan
Aryan
Guest
9 months ago

well written JENN very very amazed

Sherly
Sherly
Guest
9 months ago

Well-articulated! I just loved it!

Sarang
Sarang
Guest
9 months ago

Well written Jenny… 👏🏻

Rohith
Rohith
Guest
9 months ago

Cautionary tale!!
Engaging narrative ✍️ ❤️ ..Great 👍 ..

hyune
hyune
Guest
8 months ago

looking forward to more from you bestiee 🐥

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