Doomscrolling: Identify, Understand, and Stop It Now

Doomscrolling: Identify, Understand, and Stop It Now

Ever found yourself in the depths of social media scrolling through one negative news story after another? The internet is flooded with news, making it easier than ever to get caught in a vicious news-consuming cycle. Let’s have a closer look at what doomscrolling is and how you can stop it once and for all. 

What is Doomscrolling? 

The definition of doomscrolling by the Cambridge dictionary is:

This can apply to news websites, social media and any other place you can think of for news reading or watching. Doomscrolling is often characterized by losing track of time while continuously scrolling through negative content.

So if you find yourself absorbed in negative news and suddenly realize you’ve been at it for a very long time not even knowing how you got there – chances are you’ve been doomscrolling [2].

Why Is It Such a Common Issue Today? 

The COVID Pandemic and War Conflicts 

The COVID pandemic, the war in Ukraine, other global conflicts, and the economic situation have left many of us feeling scared and insecure. Doomscrolling became particularly common during the pandemic when the entire world was affected by a shared stressor [2].

A stressor that changed all of our lives for several years, keeping us closed at home, and unable to socialize with our loved ones. But mainly, covid brought up a lot of uncertainty and fear of life that many of us never experienced.

And with that – the whole and wide internet offered us an infinite resource for news following so we could stay up to date with how the pandemic was evolving. 

24/7 News Availability 

Your grandparents likely used to buy one newspaper every morning and perhaps listened to the radio channel to follow up with what’s going on in the world. There weren’t many more places to go and dig for information. The choice of source was limited as well as the amount of information available.

Later on, the internet changed the game. Anyone could write anything, any time of the day. Isn’t that amazing? And yes, amazingly the internet offers a wide resource for gaining knowledge and information. As well as a space for expressing our own. We can’t argue the positive points that the invention of the internet gave us.

But with that come also its challenges – fake news, conspiracy theories, information overload, and doomscrolling that have negative effects on our mental health. 

How is Doomscrolling Connected to Social Media Use

Social Media: The News Hamster Wheel

Social media has taken news variety to another level. Offering bite-size information and adjusting its algorithm based on what we view the most, it’s a perfect recipe for keeping us on the scrolling hamster wheel. And even without us actively searching for specific information or visiting news channels. And it’s important to note that:

A recent study has shown that doomscrolling has a positive correlation with fear of missing out (a worried feeling that you may miss exciting events that other people are going to, especially caused by things you see on social media) and with social media addiction. Another aspect linked with doomscrolling is extensive time spent on social media [4].

Who is More Likely to Fall into the Doomscrolling Trap?

People Prone to Anxiety  

Anxiety affects 19.1% of the US population [5]. If you struggle with anxiety or anxiety related disorders you might be more likely to fall into the trap of doomscrolling. People who struggle with anxiety need to have everything under control. Therefore doomscrolling can be their coping mechanism with the hope of staying informed = staying in control.

Unfortunately, doomscrolling has the opposite effect. Instead of relief, the negative news we extensively consume makes us even more anxious, resulting in us reaching for more and more news. That way we end up in a vicious cycle [6].

What Are the Effects of Doomscrolling on Your Mental Health?

Doomscrolling has negative effects on mental health. These are some of the most common issues people face [7]:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Negative emotions such as anger and sadness
  • Uncertainty about the future
  • Negative view of  the world 

Confirmation Bias & Our Negative View of the World

We have a “mental filter” that causes us to look for information that we already believe to be true or that compliments our existing beliefs. Similarly, we tend to discredit information that conflicts with what we already believe. With doomscrolling, we will never run out of negative news that supports our confirmation bias [3].

In other words, we support our belief that the world is a dangerous place where we always need to be on the lookout for something bad happening. But believe it or not, there are other (even positive) things happening in the world that we might not be aware of because of our confirmation bias. 

How to Stop Doomscrolling Once and for All

Limit Your Screen Time and Social Media Use

One of the most important steps to take is to limit your overall screen time. Doomscrolling can only happen if you spend a lot of time hanging onto your screen. Thus, setting clear limits for yourself on when to spend time on your phone is the first step.

AppBlock Has Got Your Back: Block Apps Keeping You Doomscroll

There are tools that can help you limit your screen time. One of those is AppBlock. A handy app that lets you block other apps on which you tend to doomscroll – like social media. That way you can regain control over your news consumption habits.

AppBlock features that help you fight doomscrolling:

  • Quick mode for lightning fast blocking. Activate anytime and anywhere with one tap. 
  • Strict Mode prevents changes to your blocking settings. This feature allows you to prevent bypassing your blocks and stay mindfully on track.
  • Schedule blocks lets you plan your day and choose multiple blocks like time for work, time for yourself, or Sunday digital detox.
  • Usage limits allow you to set a daily limit for selected apps so you won’t end up doomscrolling for hours.
  • Detailed usage statistics empower you on the journey by showing your daily progress.

Seek Out Positive news

Seek out positive news! Remember the confirmation bias mentioned earlier? We can flip the script by consuming positive news and reinforcing our positive view of the world.

If you doomscroll, you might doubt that positive things are happening in the world. You may need to find new sources, but trust us, they are out there. Don’t just take our word for it, check them out yourself.

These are a couple of websites that can help you get started:

Practice gratitude

Doomscrolling can have us feeling very negative about the world we live in as well as about our own position in it. With gratitude practice we can get the perspective on what good we have going on in our life. And when it comes to the news – being grateful can help us differentiate the severity of our own problems versus what is going on in the world [8].

Move your body

Physical movement is so beneficial for us. Not only that it pumps up our serotonin level – that feel-good neurotransmitter in our brain – but it also helps our minds rest. Going for a walk, doing a workout, joining a yoga class, or hitting the gym – all of these will help your health as well as keep you off the screen [8]. 

The Bottom Line

Negative news is always available on our phones and other devices we use daily.  And with the global conflicts so present we tend to fall into the doomscrolling trap even more. Its negative effects on our mental health are plentiful. It increases anxiety and supports our negative view of the world and its future.

By limiting screen time and social media use we gain control over our time spent consuming news and develop new healthy habits that make our lives more enjoyable. 

Sources:

[1] https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/doomscrolling

[2] https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-doomscrolling-5088882#toc-how-doomscrolling-negatively-impacts-your-mental-health

[3] https://www.wired.com/story/how-to-stop-doomscrolling-psychology-social-media-fomo/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9580444/

[5] https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/anxiety-statistics/#:~:text=Anxiety%20disorders%20are%20the%20most,with%206.8%20million%20adults%20affected.

[6] https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-doomscrolling-5088882#toc-who-is-most-likely-to-doomscroll

[7] https://www.health.com/mind-body/what-is-doomscrolling#citation-4

[8]https://health.clevelandclinic.org/everything-you-need-to-know-about-doomscrolling-and-how-to-avoid-it

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