Many people enjoy watching funny cat videos on social media, and then there are some who are hooked to sad or depressing news. Whether it is about war in another country or crimes in nearby places, it is not easy to ignore negative news. If you are reading news online, you will come across stories that might upset you. But some people have an urge to just scroll through negative news on digital platforms. That’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 Health Communication journal showed that 16.5 percent of participants had a “severely problematic” habit of consuming negative news. The research suggested that those who were more into bad news had “greater mental and physical ill-being” compared to people who read less about negative news. In the study, stress, anxiety and depression were given as examples of “ill-being”.
Dr Rahul Rai Kakkar, visiting consultant, psychiatry and clinical psychology, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram explains doomscrolling is the habit of endlessly and compulsively scrolling through social media, news websites or other online platforms to consume a constant stream of negative or distressing information. This content typically revolves around topics such as disasters, crises, pandemics, tragedies and political turmoil. The term doomscrolling, which has been popular since 2018, is derived from the sense of impending doom that such continuous exposure to distressing news can create.
What drives people to engage in doomscrolling?
There are many factors that can make people want to doomscroll.
1. Fear of missing out (FOMO)
People often fear being out of the loop or missing critical information, so they keep scrolling to stay informed, and they end up consuming more of 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’s distressing and upsetting.
3. Stress relief
Paradoxically, some people engage in doomscrolling as a way to distract themselves from their own stress or anxieties by focusing on external problems, says the expert.
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4. Addictive nature of social media
Social media platforms can be very addictive, with endless scrolling features that keep users engaged. While some like to scroll about their favourite celebrities, others look for bad news.
How doomscrolling affects mental health
Reading negative news all the time can have detrimental effects on your mental and physical health.
• Constant exposure to negative news can heighten anxiety and stress levels.
• Prolonged doomscrolling can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair.
• Engaging in this behaviour before bedtime can disrupt sleep patterns.
• Stress and anxiety resulting from doomscrolling can impact physical health negatively.
Tips to stop doomscrolling
Doomscrolling is not good for your health, so you should try to stop doing it.
1. Set time limits
Checking videos or news online can be quite time consuming. Time flies when you are 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. Curate your feeds
Unfollow or mute social media accounts or pages that consistently share distressing content. Curate your social media feed to include more positive or neutral content, suggests Dr Kakkar.
3. Designate 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 constant scrolling.
4. Turn off notifications
Whether it is a new message or mail or social media update, our phone keeps ringing. Just disable the non-essential notifications to reduce the temptation to check your phone constantly.
5. Practice mindfulness
Be aware of when you are doomscrolling and consciously choose to redirect your attention to something more positive or productive. Practicing mindfulness can be of great help.
6. Create a pre-bedtime routine
Establish a calming routine before sleep that doesn’t involve phone or computer screens. You can read a book, meditate or take a warm bath to help you sleep better.
7. Stay informed in moderation
It’s essential to be informed about what’s happening around you, but balance is the key. Set a specific time each day to catch up on news without overindulging.
8. Engage in physical activities
Regular exercise will help to keep you in shape. It can also help to reduce stress and anxiety, making it easier to resist the urge to doomscroll, says the expert.
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 if needed.
If doomscrolling becomes a severe addiction that negatively impacts your life, you should take help from a mental health professional.