Many people enjoy watching funny cat videos on social media, and there are also those who are addicted to sad or depressing news. Whether it is war in another country or crimes in nearby places, it is not easy to ignore negative news. When you read news online, you come across stories that may upset you. But some people have the urge to just scroll through negative news on digital platforms. It’s called doomscrolling and it can affect your mental health. Read on to find out how to stop doomscrolling.
A 2022 study published in the journal Health Communication found that 16.5 percent of participants had a “severely problematic” habit of consuming negative news. The research suggested that those who liked bad news more had ‘more mental and physical problems’ than people who read less about negative news. The study cited stress, anxiety and depression as examples of ‘disease’.
Dr. Rahul Rai Kakkar, Guest Consultant, Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram explains that doomscrolling is the practice of endlessly and compulsively scrolling through social media, news websites or other online platforms to consume a constant stream of negative or disturbing information . This content typically revolves around topics such as disasters, crises, pandemics, tragedies, and political unrest. The term doomscrolling, which has been popular since 2018, is derived from the sense of impending doom that such constant exposure to disturbing news can cause.
What drives people to get into doomscrolling?
There are many factors that can cause people to doomscroll.
1. Fear of missing out (FOMO)
People often worry that they are out of the loop or missing important information, so they keep scrolling to stay informed, and end up consuming more bad news.
As humans, we have a natural curiosity about the world, and this can lead us to seek out and consume information, even if it is distressing and disturbing.
3. Stress relief
Paradoxically, some people engage in doomscrolling as a way to distract themselves from their own stress or anxiety by focusing on external problems, the expert says.
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4. Addictive nature of social media
Social media platforms can be highly addictive, with endless scrolling features that keep users engaged. While some like to scroll about their favorite celebrities, others look for bad news.
How doomscrolling affects mental health
Constantly reading negative news can have detrimental effects on your mental and physical health.
• Constant exposure to negative news can increase anxiety and stress levels.
• Prolonged doom scrolling can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair.
• Engaging in these behaviors before bed can disrupt sleep patterns.
• Stress and anxiety resulting from doomscrolling can negatively impact physical health.
Tips to stop doomscrolling
Doomscrolling is not good for your health, so you should try to stop it.
1. Set time limits
Watching videos or news online can be quite time-consuming. Time flies when you’re on your phone or laptop. So allocate specific times for browsing news or social media. You can use apps or phone settings to set daily time limits for these activities.
2. Manage your feeds
Unfollow or mute social media accounts or pages that consistently share disturbing content. Make sure your social media feed contains more positive or neutral content, suggests Dr. Kakkar.
3. Point to news sources
Choose reputable news sources and if you want, you can subscribe to their email newsletters or apps. This way you can receive curated updates instead of constantly scrolling.
4. Turn off notifications
Whether it’s a new message, email or social media update, our phone keeps ringing. Just turn off the non-essential notifications to reduce the temptation to constantly check your phone.
5. Practice mindfulness
Be aware of when you’re doomscrolling and consciously choose to shift your attention to something more positive or productive. Practicing mindfulness can be a great help.
6. Create a pre-bed routine
Have a calming routine before bed that doesn’t involve phone or computer screens. You can read a book, meditate or take a warm bath to sleep better.
7. Stay informed in moderation
It’s essential to be aware of what’s going on around you, but balance is key. Set a specific time each day to catch up on the news, without going overboard.
8. Participate in physical activities
Regular exercise will help you stay in shape. It can also help reduce stress and anxiety, making it easier to resist the urge to doomscroll, the expert says.
9. Connect with others
Instead of passively consuming news online, discuss important events with your friends or family members to gain different perspectives and emotional support when needed.
If doomscrolling becomes a serious addiction that is negatively impacting your life, you should seek help from a mental health professional.