What is "Doomscrolling" and How to Stop

Aspyn Coaching
What is "Doomscrolling" and How to Stop

With the current state of the world we live in, it seems like there's bad news everywhere. While checking news articles, emails, and social media apps, one article turns into another which turns into a news report that turns into a related case, and so on. All of a sudden, what was a simple skim of notifications and recent updates turns into 2 hours completely wasted and a new weight of crippling anxiety. 

So, what happened?

What is "Doomscrolling?"

It turns out the above situation has actually turned into quite a phenomenon. Doomscrolling, or "Doomsurfing," was a term coined on Twitter to describe peoples' tendencies to immerse themselves in bad news they find on the internet, according to Health. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, doomscrolling has really taken its hold on the general population on a variety of topics in addition to the virus. If you're unsure if you've fallen victim to this experience, here are some signs:

  • Compulsively checking the news several times a day
  • Reading/watching stories for long periods of time on negative topics
  • Feeling compelled to check the news in fear you'll miss an update
  • Reading/watching several stories covering the same topic or event
  • Feeling anxious or down for long periods after checking the news

And more. While avoiding bad news altogether isn't necessarily a better alternative, wasting hours searching for, watching, and reading about negative news has a poor effect on our mental health! So, how can you break this unhealthy habit? 

How to Stop "Doomscrolling?"
The Health article goes on to inform readers that our brains really love to know about the negative things in life. Evolutionarily, if we're aware of bad things and how to avoid them, we have a better chance of not falling prey to them ourselves. In hindsight, we perform this type of behavior to make ourselves feel safer or better about something bad. However, studies have shown that it actually makes us feel worse, worsening symptoms of conditions like depression, PTSD, anxiety, and OCD!

While it's not going to be easy, ways to stop doomscrolling include

1. Recognizing When You're Doing It 
The first step in breaking a bad habit is recognizing when you're doing it. So, when you find yourself starting your day by checking the news, seeing what's new with the pandemic, reading up about the recession, etc., you know you're doomscrolling. When you feel the urge to check your phone or open up your favorite news source on your computer at work, that's the doomscrolling calling your name!

2. Set a Routine that Helps You Check the News and Your Phone in a Healthier Way
It's okay to check the news. It's not productive to shut out all the negative news completely. A healthy amount of bad news is what we're aiming for. Instead of waking up and surfing your news outlet right away in the morning or whenever you have downtime at work, try setting aside 15 minutes at the end of the day to read up on the latest!

3. Find Something Else to do When You Feel Like Checking the News
There are a variety of positive alternatives to doomscrolling. If that's how you've been filling your free time, moving past doomscrolling is going to require you to find other things to do! Some alternatives we recommend include:

  • Reading a book
  • Scrolling through more positive content
  • Trying out meditation or mindfulness activities
  • Listening to an uplifting podcast
  • Calling a friend or family member
  • Getting in some exercise

4. Change Up Your Phone's Algorithm
Our apps are tracking what we're looking at. If you're always looking at cat videos on YouTube, you're going to see recommendations for cat videos everywhere you go. Similarly, your phone will track the news articles you read and will recommend articles on topics you commonly look at. You can outsmart your algorithm and kiss doomscrolling goodbye by searching for and looking at other things, like good news sources instead!

With an honest look at yourself and your habits, determination, and commitment, you can successfully abandon the habit of doomscrolling!

The Key Takeaway
Doomscrolling is addictive and only serves to feed your anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc. While ignoring bad news doesn't help you either, obsessing over bad news will lead you to only seeing the negative side of life. Breaking out of your habit will help you find the peace and happiness you didn't even know you were missing out on. 

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