Doomscrolling, or the practice of compulsively scouring the internet for doom-and-gloom news for hours in order to absorb the negative news present on different social media platforms. While many people are unaware of this term, almost everyone today who has a presence in the digital world is indulged in this practice. Karen K. Ho, a global finance and economics reporter at the news outlet Quartz, began tweeting regular reminders to make netizens step away from the screen and do something that can actually make a doomscroller feel better.
Doomscrolling is the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though the news is saddening or disheartening. Furthermore, this can also be termed as an obsession to read every little detail of the news while feeling uneasy about it. The act of doomscrolling existed for the Black community long before everybody else discovered it in 2020. The word gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Black Lives Matter protests and the 2020 US Presidential election, aggravated the practice of doomscrolling. Keeping oneself aware of worldly affairs has been a propensity but it has turned awful with the inclination towards dismal, lately.
Doomscrolling affects your mental health and well-being
This habit of continuously reading a dark or grim story erodes the mental health of a person simultaneously causing stress and anxiety. Being constantly showered with fear-inducing content can lead to anxiety issues that can cause physical and mental discomfort. Physical effects of anxiety may include headache, upset stomach, muscle tension, feeling tired easily, decrease in hunger level or having difficulty in sleeping. Also, facing fear or threat may even lead to hostile or aggressive behaviour.
“We are all hardwired to see the negative and be drawn to the negative because it can harm us physically,” said Ken Yeager, Ph.D., a psychiatrist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Another clinic director said that we keep scrolling and scrolling thinking it will be helpful, but we end up feeling even worse.
“People are drawn towards doomscrolling because they feel like they have a sense of being able to control any of that bad news. But it does not create control and only makes you miserable. The overall impact doomscrolling has on people can vary, but typically, it can make you feel extra anxious and isolated,” said Yeager.
How to stop doomscrolling?
1. Setting a time limit and sticking to it:
A pre-decided time limit is a right way to cut short the usage of social media. Give an app 10-15 minutes in a day and put your phone aside after scrolling. You can also set manual time limits and hours after which you can’t really open the apps. “Set a reminder to turn off your phone, and use apps that educate you about your total screen time each day and how much you spent on each social media site,” suggested a psychiatrist.
2. Log out from your devices:
You can just manually log out from your computer and cell phone and try to increase the friction required to log in and read the website. This will increase the efforts, otherwise, it’s too easy to open an app and scroll endlessly. You can also go a step ahead by the emergency function through which you can literally just change the account password and give it to someone else so you can’t log in.
3. Avoid the usage of your phone right after you wake up and before going to sleep:
If you use your phone excessively during the nights, you can put a book by your side so you develop a habit of reading a book before going to bed. Keeping your phone a little away saves you from senseless scrolling and also from the harmful rays that the phone emits. “Make a solid effort to wake up at the same time each day and eliminate technology for the first half-hour upon waking up,” suggested a digital wellness coach. This will allow your body and mind to awaken naturally and increase productivity for the rest of your day.
4. Turn off your phone’s push notifications:
Notifications popping up every now and then can be an unnecessary distraction and maybe even triggering. Candace V. Love, a licensed psychiatrist proposed, “If you have notifications set up on your apps that cause you to stop what you’re doing and read an article. Turn them off. They’re just distracting and make you feel a false sense of urgency to read something right now. Those articles can wait.”
5. It’s time to get back to your favourite hobbies:
Many of us became chefs, bakers, artists, decorators during lockdowns. Now that we are moving back to our normal lifestyles why don’t we include our good habits and hobbies in our daily lives? A lot of people have turned to write cards and letters as an alternate activity during the pandemic. The idea is to do what makes you feel alive keeping digital devices away.
6. Some natural light and meditation:
Go out and stay in natural light a little longer, absorbing the positive vibe of nature. Look around and try to find what makes you happy and your day better. A meditation teacher Paul Harrison said that he often advises his students to practice a quick technique to help interrupt doomscrolling. It’s called “Vipassana” and it only takes 10 seconds. Vipassana is a meditation technique in which we label the thoughts and feelings that we experience. It is practiced by closing the eyes, focusing on the breath, and labeling any thoughts or feelings that are occurring. This will remind you that it is just a feeling and nothing more.
7. Give yourself a little time to adjust:
In the beginning, it will be a little difficult to create boundaries with your phone and the news but give yourself time to adapt. You will get used to it in a few days or in a month. “It’s easy to quell something that you’ve been doing for two weeks, but it’s more difficult to quell something you’ve been doing for 5 months — or for years. But the brain is better than any smartphone out there. It is always adapting and evolving and responding to its external cues so what you focus on grows. Over time there will be a difference,” said Dr. Aditi Nerukar, a physician at Harvard Medical School.
8. A few effortless things to do:
You can always call your friends and family to feel good and for some immediate emotional support. Another suggestion could be keeping your subtitles on while watching TV so that you can avoid picking and surfing your phone.