Before the pandemic grounded most of us, if you’d ever ridden the subway or a bus, flew on a commercial flight or, heck, been anywhere in public with lots of other people, chances are you’d have seen a familiar thing: all heads around you bowed, eyes locked intently on a cell-phone screen. If people had near constant phone fixation in the prepandemic times, it might be safe to call it a flat-out phone addiction in the age of rolling lockdowns and perpetual social distancing; one survey found that average U.S. adult smartphone time surpassed three hours a day for the first time ever in 2020. A lot of this screen time is likely mindless scrolling from one post to another—in one way, it’s a distraction from thinking about the strife in one’s own life and in the world. As writer Karen K. Ho tells our technology editor Sophie Bushwick in this issue’s cover story, this so-called doomscrolling robs “future-you of the energy you need to really focus on important things and also to take better care of yourself” (see “Stop Doomscrolling News and Social Media”).
Scrolling further into this issue, senior editor Gary Stix has a fascinating conversation with Vanderbilt University professor of psychology Steven D. Hollon about the role of therapy in treating depression (see “Evolution Could Explain Why Psychotherapy May Work for Depression”). And journalist Christiane Gelitz explores the debate over whether you can read a lie on someone’s face (see “Humans Are Pretty Lousy Lie Detectors”). Once you’ve finished this absorbing collection, I recommend stepping away from your screen and getting some fresh spring air.
This article was originally published with the title “A Digital Obsession” in SA Mind 32, 3, 2 (May 2021)