After I heard "doomscrolling" mentioned in a conversation, I decided to lookup more about it. What it is, if it's harmful and why, and how to stop.
I don't know about you, but I definitely have days where I feel like I am spending hour(s) scrolling through social media and the news, even just as a little break from work or responsibilities - the time spent on it stacks up! However, what is it that you're reading? Is it a lot of disturbing news and information? This seemingly harmful search for reprieve may actually be harmful to mental health.crolling may actually be harmful to mental health. And yes, there's a name for this proclivity—doomscrolling.
What is doomscrolling?
Doomscrolling, or doomsurfing, was placed on Merriam-Webster dictionary's "Words We're Watching" list, since gaining popularity amid the pandemic. They define doomscrolling as "the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing." Sound familiar? It did to me! I immediately remembered setting down my phone just a few days before because I was starting to feel depressed.
But then why do we continue to doomscrolling?
Psychoanalyst Babita Spinelli, L.P., reports," during times of stress people turn to social media for information, and doomscrolling has become a 'coping mechanism' with the uncertainty in today's world,"
Spinelli goes on to acknowledge that staying up to date with the latest COVID-19 news, and staying connected with friends and family during the quarantine is important, thus, the growing popularity of doomscrolling. "The uncertainty in the world and minute-by-minute news breaks has created a fear of missing out," she says. People are afraid to "let go," in case they miss something.
As a result of horrible recent events, news about police brutality, oppression, and racial injustice is also finally circulating in mainstream media. With all the resources and news available and streaming, people will often start to feel a bit of guilt for not doomscrolling. The fear is that one will miss out or be 'turning the other cheek' if they are not constantly up to date on the latest news. Ironically, spending so much time in the news and not spending time maintaining self-care can prevent people from taking real action - which is vital.
How doomscrolling can affect mental health.
When where we turn to make sense of all the chaos in today's world is the news, and the news tends to not always tell the whole story, we often don't get the clarity we are needing. This can leave us feeling frustrated, fearful, helpless, and/or angry. Spinelli explains that the "graphic violence shown in social media can elicit trauma." and that this can be "detrimental to mental health if it continues to be the fabric of one's day."
With the two public health emergencies —COVID-19 and racism— happening right now, communities are being impacted (some more than others) and it can be difficult to draw the line between staying informed and doomscrolling.
How to avoid doomscrolling while still taking action.
"Being aware, educated, and contributing in your own way to combat racial and social injustice is undoubtedly important," Spinelli says. "However, we need to utilize other mechanisms to do so rather than excessive doomscrolling." Here are a few strategies she suggests for doing so:
Instead of aimlessly scrolling through apps, read newsletters, magazines, or newspapers that you receive via email or at your doorstep. Once you've found a couple of platforms and sources to receive news from, minimize the time spent on other sites. Here are two methods for limiting news intake while staying informed.
Participate in consistent (virtual) meetings with like-minded friends to stay connected on the issues.
Listen to podcasts or read books on racial and social injustice. Incorporate this into your daily rhythm in place of doomscrolling.
Spend time (even virtually) volunteering at organizations that support and fight for racial justice, or raise awareness in your place of work.
It's important to remember that it is possible to be mindful and connected to the issues in the world without excessive doomscrolling, Spinelli says. If you do find yourself in a doomscrolling spiral, she urges you to incorporate positive news and read content that brings peace, laughter, or joy.
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