Do you “doomscroll’?
Doomscrolling is the act of incessantly scrolling through depressing feeds on social media and news sites knowing that it’s making us feel negative emotions. It could be addictive—it’s like how we naturally want to stare at a car wreck.
Keeping up with the news is important, and being on social media does have its benefits. But overuse of anything—especially things like depressing news—can negatively impact your health and well-being.
Harms of “doomscrolling”
The negative consequences of compulsive doomscrolling don’t stop with this list—but should be enough to give an idea of why it’s a problem, and why you should either prevent this habit or kick it to the curb.
- Increased anxiety: You can feel the tension and worry slipping into your shoulders and gut as you scroll through and absorb bad news. And since too much stress reduces your body’s natural immune functions, doomscrolling is bad news for your overall well-being.
- Sleeping problems: This is especially true for those of us who like to do a final news run before bed. Bad news has a way of waking up our body and keeping it awake as if we have to defend ourselves or solve the problem we’ve just been exposed to.
- Mental health issues: A 2021 PLOS One study discovered that just four minutes of negative news reading significantly and immediately affects your mood and mental state—in a bad way.
Why is it so hard to stop?
As we’ve hinted at already, part of our brains are wired to scroll endlessly through depressing, demoralizing, distressing, or painful information, creating a downward spiral that looks like this:
- We search for news in an environment brimming with
- Scary or distressing news content, such as tension between countries on the other side of the world, triggers anxiety.
- Anxiety increases our instinctive need to feel in control.
- This need triggers more environmental scanning, which leads to more news consumption.
- With the proliferation of negative news nowadays, consuming news further ramps up anxiety, which rivets the attention, which triggers anxiety, and so on into a vicious cyclical process.
What you can do about it
Set time limits: Give yourself a scheduled time to scroll through those feeds and surf the internet for news—making sure that you don’t go beyond, say, the fifteen minutes you’ve set aside for this particular activity. Use a timer if you have to.
Pick up an offline hobby (or two): When you spend time in front of the computer or on the phone outside of work, it’s easy to slip into unproductive surfing or doomscrolling without noticing. Having an offline project or skill you’d like to develop would help you curb the itch to doomscroll on a regular basis.
Meditate: Did you know meditation helps you focus better, be more productive, and make you an overall happier and healthier person? It’s true. Try a deep-breathing exercise, a contemplative walk in the park, or follow along with a meditation prompt on a meditation app the next time the urge to scroll comes around. And the next time you’re scrolling through social media feeds, be mindful about what you’re absorbing; this helps to quiet your mind and keep you centered on what’s really important.
Practice positive thinking: Since doomscrooling puts a heavy emphasis on the bad, the sad, and the ugly, why not train your mind and heart to focus on what’s good, happy, and beautiful? Make lists of what you’re grateful for, sing a happy song to yourself, and share a smile with someone you love, just because.
If you or anyone you know struggles with doomscrolling, now you know what to do. Go forth and conquer this habit—or better yet, replace it with joyful, mindful scrolling!