It is no secret that the way we consume news has changed. Over the last twenty years, digital media has developed rapidly. 3.96 billion people use social media worldwide in order to connect to the wider world.
With this advent of social media, we now get the majority of our news from there. Statistics show that half of adults in the UK now use social media to keep up with the latest news.
However, alongside the change in media consumption, the way in which we process news has also changed. Doomscrolling is a new, widespread way people are reading news online, and it is not healthy.
What is Doomscrolling?
Doomscrolling is the act of spending extended screen time scrolling through negative and often dystopian news. Doomscrolling has become particularly popular during the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is because it is often attributed to the compulsive need to try and get answers when we’re afraid.
We live with a world of instant information at our fingertips thanks to the internet. Everything we need is readily accessible at the click of a button.
This encourages people to do their own research on controversial and heavy topics, often leading them down a rabbit hole of negativity. It can often make the world seem a lot more dangerous than it is. This is due to not only the negative news topics, but often to the negative comments people leave on these topics.
This constant need to find answers to things that scare us is an evolutionary habit. A psychiatry resident at Dalhousie University, Dr. Patricia Celan, explains that this is because we like to familiarize ourselves with dangers in order to gain a sense of preparedness and control.
Why is Doomscrolling Bad for your Mental Health?
While it may seem like innocent browsing at first, doomscrolling can actually have a very negative impact on your mental health. Increased consumption of negative news alone can have a negative effect on you.
It can be addictive, and difficult to look away from. This can impact your mental health negatively because you can physically see the lack of positive news. It generates the feeling that there is no good in the world, which can cause feelings of anxiety and fear.
We are naturally more attracted to negative news stories and headlines. This is due to a phenomenon called the negativity bias. Bad news gets more reactions at a quicker pace and sells better because people have a stronger psychological reaction to bad news.
Consuming so much negative content can often make people feel stressed, depressed, or isolated. Experts argues that these feelings doomscrolling cause can also disrupt your sleep and make your attentiveness and overall performance suffer the following day.
So, How Can I Avoid Doomscrolling?
There are a few methods you can use to try and stop yourself from doomscrolling. You can:
Check in with yourself first. Don’t immediately jump on your phone when you wake up. Instead, go through your morning routine first. Give yourself time to face the world before you scroll through social media and check in with the news.
Reduce your screen time. By actively and mindfully reducing the amount of time spent on your phone, you reduce the probability of coming into contact with overly negative news. Try setting a ‘screen-free’ time – for example, not using your phone after 8pm.
Replace the activity with something else. Instead of giving in to the urge to scroll, try and do something else. You might read a book, do some exercise, or write in a journal. Filling your time with activities you find meaningful and worthwhile is a better use of your time than making yourself feel bad.
Set times to go on social media. Hold yourself accountable. Give yourself fifteen minutes or so to scroll, and then stop when the time is up. This prevents you from spiralling into hours of screen time and negative news. The limited time also means you’re more likely to look at things that interest you, not just the ongoing news cycle.
Doomscrolling is a cycle that needs to be broken. People want to know more about bad news, so they seek it out.
It is okay and understandable to feel overwhelmed by the state of the world. However, despite what you see online, the world isn’t all bad. The good is there, it’s just often hidden by the algorithm of popular news topics.
It is important to actively check the way we interact with news and media online. Noticing our habits and behaviours is the best way to curb them, and not heap more stress onto ourselves. Remember – things are hard enough as it is without you doing this to yourselves!
It can be difficult to learn good habits alone. Here at Ceed, we are committed to helping you improve your mental health. Take a look at how we can help here.