evo Australia, November 2020

"I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge,” wrote Edgar Allan Poe in the final year of his life. He blamed loneliness and dread, combined with a desire to escape, for his vices. And I think I can relate. Reader, I have a confession to make. Over the past six months, I too have developed a dangerous and debilitating addiction: doomscrolling.

The term is one of the many new words that have swept into our 2020 lexicon, along with “super-spreader”, “covidiot”, “iso” and “zoom-fatigue”. It describes the act of being sucked into the vortex of the dark side of the internet, specifically via a thumb flick on social media or news sites. It is the ultimate bad news binge. I know this action is eroding my mental health, but I’m unable to pull away. I’ve even doomscrolled doomscrolling because a symptom of modern life is this inherent need to know everything about everything. The news is shot at us at the speed of light. In one sitting, I read about the state of the economy, our dying planet, pandemic numbers, which celebrity had been cancelled, the US election, the impact of space junk, the Victorian lockdown and what the public have to say about all, and just about every hot take on BMW’s design

Honestly, if we were ever worried about an alien invasion, we just have to launch a Voyager Golden Record-style time capsule into space filled with Facebook comments, tweets and news headlines. Any intelligent life that might want to visit Earth would be repelled.

“What does this have to do with cars?” you ask. Well, I discovered that once you put your mind to it, you can doomscroll anything! I angrily tore through racist opinion pieces about Lewis Hamilton. I got caught up in the discussion around the future of Lamborghini and Bugatti, I saw a beef break out over manual transmissions between car Twitter USA and car Twitter UK. There was the day Scott Morrison announced a new renewable policy based on gas, seemingly ignoring the big ball of free power that hangs in the sky, thus diluting any chance we have to clean-up the grid for EVs – that day really prodded the climate change deniers! I watched Tesla’s shareholders vote against increased human rights reporting and a zero-tolerance child labour policy suggestion, in real-time. That, of course, only led me to read about the alleged toxic culture in Tesla’s New York Gigafactory 2, and a pending lawsuit surrounding the child workers of a Democratic Republic of Congo mine used in Tesla, Apple, Dell and Microsoft’s supply chain.

As a journalist, it is my job to know what is happening in our industry and be across the high-level reporting from my press card-toting comrades. I can process bad news. What made it worse was the endless venomous commentary. It accompanied everything! Like a slow-motion car crash, this is where “just reading the news” takes a darkly compulsive turn. I once read a scientific paper that said when our flight, freeze or fight responses are activated, we have trouble empathising and making clear decisions, because there is no time for reflection. This is how flare-comments happen – the type that are fired-off with a mindless smash of the keyboard, devoid of any real consideration for the screen on the other end. And the reason I’m talking about it here is our industry is ripe for it. Why can’t we just have nice things and enjoy them too?

’ve never understood why the automotive industry (and its sister, motorsport) has such vigour for a pile-on. Cars have never been safer or smarter or offered more performance, and we are living in the most optimistic revolution seen in a lifetime – and yet, the vocal online majority of the people who love them dominate conversations by moaning, attacking each other’s choices and adding to the toxicity. There is enough bad news, misinformation and prejudice in the world right now to process, without the addition of an F150 avatar calling someone a homophobic slur because they enjoy convertibles.I say all this while flaunting the irony of a column. But I’m just asking to change the conversation. And magazines, like movies, books and music, are an antidote to the hand- held device. The only way to stop doomscrolling is to switch off from all the notifications and once you do, the noise evaporates. Besides, car community, you’re lucky, you have something that doesn’t need WIFI. So next time you find yourself staring at the screen, ready to send a flare or begin scrolling the wreckage of the week, consider the state of the world around you, the shouting, the doom and the negativity. Comment may free, but is it worth it?