What is doomscrolling and how do I know if it’s harming my mental health?

It’s increasingly hard to avoid


Why do you spend hours a day scrolling through your phone? Is it to pass the time? To stay better informed with world affairs? Perhaps you just find it fun. Whatever the reason, when you check your screen time you normally find out it’s much higher than it used to be. However, it’s when you’re doing nothing but scroll through feeds full of negativity and despair that you can’t seem to avoid, that you’re doomscrolling.

The act of doomscrolling is to endlessly scroll through your phone to only be subjected to horrible news and negative takes, but you still continue regardless. This repeated exposure to negative media is thought to have a profoundly negative impact on everyone’s wellbeing, but why do people doomscroll and how do we cut down on it?

Why do people doomscroll?

As an act that would seem so obviously a bad idea for longterm wellbeing, it’s actually quite difficult to take a step back and acknowledge that this is doing harm. Dr Daria Kuss told Metro that we’re conditioning ourselves for validation when it comes to habits such as these: “We have become conditioned to use social media more during the pandemic. We reach for social media to connect socially, to feel a sense of community and belonging.

“When engaging with social media, we receive rewards in the form of comments and likes, and over time our brains learn to associate social media use with a rewarding experience, which explains why the behaviour is maintained. Doomscrolling may be a side product of this conditioned social media engagement.”

Essentially, this means that we’ll scroll and digest any content that our phones put in front of us because we’ve already developed a habit for this behaviour. Negative news is cut up by brief boosts provided by funny videos, engagement with our social media profiles and recognition from others that keeps us coming back for exposure to more negative news.

How do I know if I’m doomscrolling?

The excessive use of social media has been found to have links with low mood and increased anxiety, as has the consumption of mostly negative news, so it’s important to know how to assess whether you’re doomscrolling or not.

It’s as easy as reflecting on how you feel after each prolonged period scrolling through your phone. Do you feel as though your life is enriched and that you’re genuinely more informed on multiple worrying topics? Do you feel engaged and uplifted?

Or does each long session on your phone make you feel like you’ve achieved rather little, and you feel a bit flat, tired and demotivated to do anything? If it’s the latter, you’re likely someone who has been doomscrolling.

How do I stop doomscrolling?

It’s important to understand why you’re doing it in the first place. Are you doing it out of boredom or frustration? Is it through a lack of having anything else to do with your time? You’ll probably be well acquainted with the idea of placing your phone in another room from studying, and this is one way of stopping yourself from doomscrolling, especially if it’s all you do in the hour or two before you go to sleep.

Try and fill the time that you’d otherwise spend sat on your phone. Go out on a walk, try and find greater value in relationships with people in person rather than online. Find social connections that are far more important than the superficiality of social media.

Dr Daria Kruss told Metro that it’s about changing social media habits rather than cutting it off completely: “Limit exposure to websites that invite doomscrolling. Engage in more focused social media use, e.g., to connect with family and friends, rather than scrolling through negative news stories.

“Outside of this time, focus on other things. Work, family, friends, hobbies. Engage in self-care practices as routine – spend time in nature, exercise, eat healthy food, have chats with family and friends. Unplug and enjoy the summer sun!”

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