Discovery Bay, home to Moodie Davitt Asia HQ, is a carless zone. So there are usually only three engine sounds I hear. The ferry arriving from or departing to Central; the number 9 bus coming up or going down the hill below me; and the one that, strangely, I welcome more than any other, the occasional roar of a jet engine as an aircraft ascends or descends from/to Hong Kong International Airport above the hills across the bay.
In fact, as I hear that familiar roar in the distance, I often dash up to my rooftop to watch the plane in question, a necessary self-reminder of how business once was and will be again.
At a time when so many lives have been lost, businesses ruined and jobs lost, staying optimistic sometimes seems a banal cliché. But it is a critical mind state that cannot be let go of. Which brings me to the subject of this Blog. Among all the terms that have entered popular parlance since the COVID-19 outbreak began (think lockdown, social distancing, PPE, self-isolate, flatten the curve et al), another – intrinsically related to those examples – has been gaining much traction lately.
It’s called ‘Doomscrolling’, a reference to how so many of us, bonded as if with superglue to our mobile devices, scroll down through wave of wave of negative news or often unseemly social media feedback. Type in ‘Doomscrolling’ to Google and you will get 759,000 results in 0.41 seconds (Oh, I do love search engines – although slightly worryingly, if you type in Martin Moodie you will get about 1.71 million results in 0.44 seconds. I knew I had lived a packed life but not that packed.) You will also discover a synonym, doomsurfing, which evokes the wave after wave of information, misinformation, and social media content (much of it banal) that has come to dominate our daily lives.
A recent BBC article online, The darkly soothing compulsion of doomscrolling, noted that the phenomenon is born from a combination of the feeling of safety in knowledge, especially during crisis; the design of social-media platforms that constantly refresh and boost the loudest voices; and, not least, sheer human fascination.
“Beyond knowing intuitively that doomscrolling makes us feel awful, studies conducted during the pandemic have corroborated this, linking both anxiety and depression to the consumption of Covid-19 related media and increased time spent on smartphones.”
There you have it. We are doing something by choice that makes us feel awful. I feel cheered up already.
Well actually I don’t. I stopped watching horror movies after seeing Carrie, the 1976 film adaption by Brian De Palma of the Stephen King novel. Why would I want to put myself through a cinematic experience that involved me wanting to hide underneath the seat that I had paid good money to sit on? Incidentally, that film’s Prom scene was ranked eighth on Bravo’s all-time ‘100 Scariest Movie Moments’ list and I have no intention of watching the seven rated above it.
But it’s true. Many of us, even me, have become doomscrollers. In the days when he was still allowed to tweet, I used to scroll down below President Donald Trump’s increasingly despotic and delusional ravings and realise that he was actually quite sensible compared with many of his followers. Now I know why nine of those top ten scariest moments are set in America. The more deranged and outright dangerous the ramblings, the more I scrolled. Guilty as charged.
I start each day by visiting BBC, CNN (sometimes Fox News just for balance, or imbalance depending on how you see it), South China Morning Post, Global Times (China), The Straits Times, Stuff (New Zealand) and The Korea Herald and my eyes are inevitably drawn to the sad, the bad and the sometimes mad.
But both as a publisher and a reader, I seek – and insist on – balance. For 14 months now, we have been reporting on a certain health crisis that dominates another top ten list, Global Language Monitor’s top words of 2020. That word is, you guessed it, Covid. In fact Covid-19 comes in second, coronavirus third, and corona (the disease not the beer), fourth. The only positive words in the top ten are progress (6), truth (7), and sustainability (10).
It would have been very easy for us to become doomcreators. But we have very consciously tried not to be. Today on Canadian media CTV News, a headline reads Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis. The headline is dramatic but alas true and the story is fair. This has been the most sustained and destructive crisis ever to hit tourism and travel retail. For every two steps forward, there often seem to be one, two or even three back. Yes, it is important to tell the once unimaginable tales of 90%-plus year-on-year traffic declines; the resultant revenue slumps; the border closures; the government lockdowns; the job losses; the commercial carnage.
However, we must also balance that with the success stories (none more so than Hainan and China Duty Free Group in particular), the tales of heroic endeavour (travel retail and aviation’s own frontline workers), of the innovative (iShop Changi, TripurX), of the non-stop believers (Heidi van Roon of Spark Group in Vancouver) and of those such as Qatar Duty Free and Qatar Airways which have maintained investment and belief throughout the crisis.
We must track also the falling case counts (not a single locally transmitted case in Mainland China for 20 days) and death tolls; the vaccine and testing progress; and the impressive work being done by airlines, airports and commercial operators to ensure traveller confidence and safety.
There are plenty of positive stories if you know where to look for them and both want and know how to write them. Yesterday was International Women’s Day and as part of a celebratory partnership with leading travel retailer Aer Rianta International (ARI), we asked 75 women from ARI to talk about what womanhood meant to them.
Not only did the story dominate our homepage (via a spectacular International Women’s Day makeover) but it went bananas on social media. Our #WomenRise series on Instagram reached over 40,000 people; while LinkedIn saw many of those 75 women from all around the vast ARI global network posting their own contribution to the story and generating some amazing feedback from women and men throughout our industry.
It was inspirational to see and to be part of. No doomscrolling then on International Women’s Day but (a new word for 2021) plenty of inspirescrolling. Let’s keep creating, covering and championing those stories, never sugar coating the crisis but putting it in an essential, forward-thinking perspective.