What is Doomscrolling?
Doomscrolling is a term that has been used to describe the phenomenon of continuously scrolling through scary or distressing content in an online environment and reading it compulsively, with little to no hope of finding anything positive.
Doomscrolling can be especially prevalent among teens, as they are more likely to be online at night and are often more susceptible to peer pressure. This could be anything from watching disturbing videos or reading news articles to scrolling endlessly through social media feeds. A certain sense of hopelessness is inherent in this behavior as you continue to scroll through bleak articles. With the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and other social media platforms, people have been inundated with notifications and attention-seeking posts at a rapid pace. It may seem as if social media is just another way for people to share their “inspirational stories,” but in reality, it becomes addictive for many.
How Doomscrolling Impacts Your Mental Health
I am a women’s life coach, with over 15 years of professional and coaching experience. I love to help people get back in touch with their dreams and achieve their goals. I have worked with many different kinds of people, from young women getting started in their careers to homeless women to overwhelmed moms, with long-term and short-term goals, from all sorts of backgrounds and ages. One thing many clients have in common is that become trapped in their heads when it comes to what they want out of life. They lose sight of the larger picture of what really matters and instead focus on instant gratification and zoning out to reduce their stress or forget about problems. I’ve seen it all, and I’m here to tell you that doomscrolling is quite a destructive habit.
It’s easy to get into habits that give us pleasure and relief in the moment but don’t serve us in the long run. People typically doomscroll when they are unhappy or anxious because they do not want to confront their emotions. Scrolling through endless feeds of content may leave you thinking that you are better connected to the news, memes and trends of your peers. But you leave yourself worse off, not just neutral, by turning away from your current reality and engaging in something else, trying to numb yourself from the pain.
Escaping Reality Isn’t the Solution
It’s a form of escapism, and an addictive one at that. Doomscrolling can be a very bad coping mechanism because it’s not only causing you to spend less time with your friends and family, but it can also cause you to miss out on activities and opportunities that could help your mental health.
Like attracts like. The universe operates by this law. According to this law, entities that are similar are drawn to one another. It implies that we are prone to attracting similar thoughts, people and situations into our lives. People who doomscroll frequently feel hopeless, which causes them to attract more negative thoughts and dwell on how horrible things are in life, becoming more fatigued and depressed than ever before. If someone already has a mental health issue, it will aggravate the illness.
You’re essentially avoiding your own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. You’re not expressing yourself — and in turn, you’re not being authentic with others. Your mind becomes a black hole where all of your true feelings are sucked in and never released again.
This habit can be incredibly unhealthy because it leads to people not wanting to deal with their challenges and instead avoiding them altogether. This can make your stress worse, which is why it’s important to know how to stop yourself from doomscrolling.
Are All My Friends Hanging Out Without Me? FOMO
It’s not just bad news that has a negative mental impact. We also feel isolated while going through friends’ positive social media feeds, seeing how they are enjoying life.
It is called FOMO, or fear of missing out. The fear of missing out is an intense feeling of anxiety that occurs when you are unable to participate in an activity or event that others are enjoying. A lot of people can relate to this because everyone feels like they are in competition with other people. This is especially true for teenagers and young adults. They feel like they need to compete against their peers in order to be accepted by them.
People who experience FOMO see others having fun and enjoying life and compare themselves to others and feel bad about their lives. This can cause a negative spiral where they start going through their friends’ social media feeds and reading their comments on posts that make them feel bad about themselves.
Even on LinkedIn, people may be are judging their own career based on what other people are doing and judging themselves based on their progress. They compare themselves to others and worry about being left behind if they don’t do enough or stay on top of things.
How Doomscrolling Impacts You Physically
When we engage with negative and distressing content such as political and global news, it causes more than just mental stress. It can also have negative physical consequences.
A Harvard Health Publishing (HHP) article titled ‘Understanding the Stress Response’ describes how stress has negative physical impacts.
When we are in a stressful situation, the amygdala in our brain perceives it as a potential threat and sends a signal to the hypothalamus, causing our bodies to go into ‘fight or flight’ mode. To deal with this condition, the hypothalamus communicates with the neurological system by releasing hormones that increase the heart rate, blood pressure, energy levels, and glucose levels in the bloodstream.
When we don’t do anything physical to expend this generated energy, it develops into anxiety and insomnia. If a person does not get enough sleep, stress can send them into a vicious cycle of depression. The problem with this habit is that you are going against your body’s natural reaction, which can lead to more health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or obesity in the long run.
Tactics to Quit Doomscrolling
If you are addicted to the internet and social media, the never-ending scroll makes it easy to lose track of time, and before you realize it, an hour has passed.
Here are some common strategies to assist you in kicking this addiction. If you can identify this behavior, you can learn to avoid it. Take small steps that are manageable and rewarding. If you want to live life to the fullest, and enjoy yourself, try any of these techniques:
- Use fewer social media apps. Remove the apps that are the biggest time wasters.
- Unfollow people or groups who frequently share irrelevant or aggravating stuff.
- Be very judicious about turning off notifications on most apps. Only leave on the notifications you actually need to be notified about. Each notification distracts you from the present moment and lures you back to the app for a hit of dopamine.
- Use apps or plugins that block websites that you think will distract you and waste your time.
- The Cold Turkey browser plugin makes it much more difficult to open up a new page of distractions. It also allows you to track your “doomscrolling” progress.
- ScreenZen is an app for iOS that forces you to wait 5 seconds before you can open a social app, limits your time, and tracks your success at reducing opens and time spent. Opal works similarly but uses a personal VPN to block your app feeds.
- News Feed Eradicator is a browser plugin that eliminates the feeds in your social websites but still allows you to access those sites. How many times have you gone to Facebook for a specific reason only to get sucked into the feed and forget why you came there?
- Establish a daily time limit for using social media apps. Use your phone’s screen time controls (iOS, Android) to see how much time you spend with these apps and implement time limits. You can also use focus and sleep time controls to remove most notifications within certain time windows or on command so you have uninterrupted sleep or study/reading time.
- Instead of reading negative or pointless stuff, use that time to read something inspirational and uplifting instead, or establish a healthy routine like exercising, sports or a creative hobby. Read my post Borrow Books for Free Instead of Doomscrolling.
- Instead of posting and liking friends’ content online, meet friends in person and have a chat; it will free both of your minds and relax you.
- We always look for happiness elsewhere. However, the truth is that our true happiness lies within. To experience this joyous feeling, try grounding techniques or meditation. Read my posts What is Grounding? Benefits and Tips for Self-Balance in a Chaotic World and Are You Doomscrolling When You Need to Be Grounding? to find out the key to understanding how to sense the bliss coming from within us.
Being addicted to social media is just one of the many afflictions of modern civilization. If you find yourself doomscrolling, take a step back and ask if your time could be better spent elsewhere.
The answer lies in learning truly restorative self-care habits. You need to begin being aware of when you are mindlessly browsing and start making a conscious effort to shift your attention back to yourself. Remember to take time for yourself to do things that restore your energy and true feelings of calm. You are your most valuable asset, and you must be mentally and physically healthy in order to be and feel at your best. Nurturing this health will also return your inspiration and joy in life.