How many times a day do you scan social media and websites for checking headlines? If you do it most often, and you particularly look for the bad or upsetting news, then you may be a victim of doom scrolling but an uninformed one. Doom scrolling? Yes, doom scrolling which is an act of exposing yourself to negative news on the internet by scrolling endlessly, and you really find it very soothing.
Doom scrolling used interchangeably with doom surfing is a term that has been there for a while, but it was highlighted more than ever before during the COVID-19 pandemic era because it was the time when were not able to engage in our regular activities and entertainment, we did endless scrolling and surfing on the internet as a way to pass this time. Meanwhile, we got exposed to negative news every single day, for some this became a trap that made them feel restless and hyper aware of what’s happening around them. The people engaged in doom scrolling know that the news they are searching for may be very upsetting for them, but they still want to go for it and spend time finding more information about it.
Why is it so hard to stop scrolling?
When you know very well that the hours reading bad news are causing you anxiety, but you find yourself helpless when it comes to stopping it. You doom scroll because of the anxiety about what is going to happen next. By doing it, your mind deceives you that you are attempting to control by checking the news again and again, but in fact it’s an attempt to control the uncontrollable.
Even when you try to scroll, It’s really hard for you to keep your phone aside, especially when there is a piece of information that you think might give you a better grasp of what’s going on. Most of the time when you doom scroll you feel worse, still you keep reading to get more information for a longer spell of time.
If you doom scroll most often, there are chances that you may develop depression or an anxiety disorder; you may have mood swings and your anxiety may rise.
How Doom scrolling may hurt your health
It’s a harmful habit, says Stephanie J. Wong PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist. According to him, the current COVID-19 pandemic has created an “over-arching sense of anxiety and depression” among most Americans.
Doom scrolling can also worsen pre-existing mental health issues or even develop new mental health issues, says Wong. For people who don’t have any existing mental health condition, constant exposure to bad news leads to catastrophic thinking that develops a tendency to expect the worst to happen without considering other possibilities.
These mental health effects may in turn give rise to physical health issues. No matter its a stress like PTSD or a stress caused by doom scrolling, your body releases stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) into the blood stream which may lead to hypertension, type 2 diabetes and other physical and mental health conditions.
Whenever human beings confront a threat, they turn towards a fight or flight mechanism that helped our ancestors survive and travel a journey of evolution. It is still applicable today when we confront a dangerous situation. This is a very helpful reaction for us while we deal with life challenges – the release of hormones prepares us to deal with life challenges. These hormones are released when we doom scroll too, we release too much adrenaline and cortisol over a long period of time that may leave hazardous impacts over our health. Long-term activation of this fight-or-flight response may do digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, weight gain, anxiety, sexual side effects, and high blood pressure, and many other health issues.
Why do we do it?
Despite knowing its ill effects, why do we do doom scroll? There is an addictive component that compels us to stick to our phones without pausing or ending endless scrolling i.e. doom scrolling. You develop a craving for being informed of what’s happening around you.
Dr. Albers suggests that doom scrolling may be the result of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). “In this scenario, your brain continues to loop around on a particular topic, similar to endless scrolling”. “The behavior is not really about finding news, it’s about reducing anxiety.”
Moreover, when stressful things happen in our life(like COVID-19 pandemic) our primitive brain takes over, and it keeps us alive about what is happening around us. This makes us scan for danger, puts us on high alert for everything that could potentially be a threat.
What may help out?
Practice mindfulness and other mental strength exercises You need to practice mindfulness and other mental health exercises to get out of doom scrolling loop, it’s not easy thought, but consistent efforts may bring a favorable outcome. Mindfulness means being fully present in the present moments i.e. paying attention to the present moment. There is an acronym STOP for the fundamental mindfulness techniques; the ‘S’ means stop whatever you are doing for a moment, put things aside. ‘T’ stands for take a deep breathe. ‘O’ is for observing thoughts, emotions and feelings i.e. just think about what’s on your mind and what emotions you feel. P stands for proceed with a thing that may support you at the moment. So, when you think about these mindfulness techniques to stop doom scrolling, that means:
Stop scrolling right away and keep your phone aside
Take a deep breathe
Observe your emotions and pay attention to the emotions that you feel because of that bad engagement ‘doom scrolling’.
Then proceed with a thing that may support you at the moment by engaging in an activity that is really soothing at the moment like talking to a friend, engaging in some physical activity etc.
Install digital assistance apps To help stop doom scrolling, you will have to set boundaries for your digital presence. There are certain steps you must take to do it like deactivating push notifications on various social media apps, setting data usage limits, and setting time limits for digital usage. There are certain apps that not only keep you informed about the time spent and data used on certain apps, but also send alarms when these limits are crossed. Similarly, you must turn towards physical gadgets like clock, calculator, calendar and other objects like this instead of using your phone for these applications because whenever you grab your phone for any of this application, there are bright chances you would get hooked by social media or other sites and may turn towards negative news again
Engage in offline activities engage in physical games, read a book, hangout with friends, do artwork (if you like). These and other activities will keep you away from digital devices and in turn you would no more be a victim of doom scrolling.
It’s not always easy to get rid of addictions like doom scrolling, but your consistent efforts will surely bring some favorable outcomes. On the other hand, if you don’t work on it, the situation will worsen over time, and you will find it more difficult to get rid of it with every passing day, and it will adversely impact your mental health and in turn all other areas of your life too. Think differently and start defeating your doom scrolling habit today.
Facebook : Think Different Nation
Instagram : Think Different Nation
Twitter : @TDN_Podcast