Yes, Doomscrolling Is Still a Thing—Here’s How to Stop for Good
It's time to mute your opinionated family member once and for all.
Social media can be a beautiful thing. It connects us with people we never would’ve met, it provides us with new perspectives, and it can provide a safe space for those with common interests or hobbies. But while there is so much positivity that comes from our love and consumption of social media, there can also be so much negativity that comes from it as well.
When you factor in the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, our screen time has increased exceptionally, almost 60%, according to EyeSafe Nielsen. This means we are on our phones more than ever, scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and any other social media platform that is trending. We’re mostly consuming negative information, yet we can’t seem to stop. We have become addicted to looking at the things that make us anxious. This has become such a phenomenon—the act of scrolling through negative things yet not being able to stop—that mental health experts had to give it a name: doomscrolling.
Doomscrolling, according to Merriam-Webster, is the act of “scrolling” through negative news and stories on your digital device, even though it makes us feel awful. It’s borderline addictive and can lead to significant mental health problems. Dr. Nance Roy, the chief clinical officer at The Jed Foundation says, “Doomscrolling can reinforce negative thoughts and negative behaviors, which negatively impacts one’s mental health.”
If you are guilty of doomscrolling and you can feel it affecting your mood, it’s time to take control of this habit. There are many ways to help yourself (or someone you know who is guilty of this) and to implement these tips into your daily routine.
How to stop doomscrolling:
1. Set times on social media apps.
A few years ago, Apple released a new feature on their devices that can help limit screen time. It enables you to give yourself daily limits not only on your phone as a whole but on particular apps. If you find yourself endlessly scrolling on Twitter and absorbing the negativity that exists on the platform, set a daily time limit. Once you have hit that limit for the day, the app locks and you’re no longer able to access it. Of course, you have the option of ignoring the limit but if you’re serious about decreasing time spent on apps, you should try your best to stick to it.
If it helps, you can start off with a larger time limit and decrease it each week so you’re not giving up social media cold turkey. This feature can be extremely helpful in not only limiting time spent on social media, but on your phone as a whole. The less you are scrolling, the less bad news you will read.
2. Unfollow social media accounts that give you anxious feelings.
Doomscrolling doesn’t just apply to “news”—it can pertain to anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself or gives you a negative feeling. That’s why it’s best to just unfollow the accounts that give you anxiety, whether it’s a media organization or a person you know.
In addition to unfollowing news organizations, Dr. Roy recommends only following reputable news sources: “Go to sites that report news in a fair and responsible manner and avoid news outlets that rely on sensationalism and shock value.” There are so many websites and “news” organizations that use clickbait headlines, so stick to news sources that rely on facts.
3. Replace scrolling with something else.
When you get the urge to pick up your phone, try pivoting to something else instead. Pick up a book, meditate, go watch a movie—anything that will distract you and capture your attention so you’re not compelled to look at social media.
If you still have the tendency to reach for your phone, perhaps you can download a game or watch a YouTube video—something that will distract you from social media but still allow you to be on your phone. After a few times of replacing social media with a different activity, you will feel less compelled to log onto Instagram or Facebook.
4. Set aside time for news consumption.
Just because the news has been giving us constant anxiety for the past year (or honestly more) doesn’t mean you can’t be in the know of what’s going on around you. It’s extremely important to be educated and understand what is happening in the world—it just doesn’t have to be constant (and it doesn’t all have to be negative).
Set aside some time in your daily routine to read the news. Back in the day, people read the newspaper in the morning and then watched a news broadcast at night—try doing that! By setting boundaries of when and how you look at the news, it might not make you as anxious.
Dr. Roy adds, “In addition to setting a time limit, localize scrolling to a specific time and place.” This will help your mind correlate a specific time of day and location so you aren’t thinking about the news all day, everywhere you go.
5. Turn off push notifications.
Turning off push notifications and unsubscribing from news organizations can help decrease the feeling of impending doom. You won’t be alerted every time something “breaking” happens, but it’ll prevent you from feeling overwhelmed every time something remotely important happens.
When it comes to the news, Dr. Roy has one last piece of advice, “Don’t let your mind wander to the “worst-case scenario.” Stay grounded by asking yourself, “Is this really likely to happen?” News—especially bad news—will be part of our lives. It’s important to find a routine that works for you and be mindful of how you are spending your time and energy.