If you’re active on social media or keep up with news online, you’re probably guilty of “doomscrolling” without even realizing it. Doomscrolling or doomsurfing is when you continuously surf through posts, videos, etc. that contain negative news in a short amount of time.
This might be out of curiosity, or simply because you want to keep up to date with the happenings of the world. The past couple of years have not been full of good news, admittedly, with continued political tension, climate instability, and COVID continuing to threaten our safety. Regardless of the reason, though, excessively reading or watching bad news can be detrimental to your mental health.
The effect of doomscrolling on mental health
People are affected by doomscrolling in different ways. Some people are more prone to mental health decline due to doomscrolling than others. An article from the University of Virginia states that people who already suffer from mental health issues–specifically anxiety–are likely to be more prone to the negative effects of doomscrolling.
This makes sense, considering that anxiety causes us to be hypervigilant, overthink, and/or expect the worst case scenario even with the smallest of situations. So imagine those reactions when something world-changing occurs. What’s more, doomscrolling means we’re reading multiple pieces of bad news in a short amount of time!
For those with anxiety, doomscrolling can lead to paranoia and even frustration about not being able to do anything about the situation. However, it can also affect those with depression. Doomscrolling can instill a sense of hopelessness in us. After all, what’s the point in doing anything if we’re all doomed anyway, right? It’s easy to fall into that sort of mindset when you’re constantly surrounded by bad news.
How to combat doomscrolling
To be clear, I’m definitely not suggesting to stay ignorant of what’s happening in the world. It’s important to be informed of current events. However, there are ways of keeping up to date without falling into doomscrolling.
For one, don’t constantly check for more news on the same topic in short amounts of time. Give yourself a few days to absorb the information you’ve already read; the rest will come to you eventually. Wanting to know every little detail of every new thing just creates a never ending cycle of negativity and leaves you feeling mentally exhausted.
Secondly, don’t just focus on the negative part of the news. One research study found that using social media for the same topic (in this case, COVID) had a different effect on mental health depending on how it was consumed.
A part in the abstract reads: “Compared to a no-information exposure group, consumption of just 2–4 minutes of COVID-related news led to immediate and significant reductions in positive affect (Studies 1 and 2) and optimism (Study 2). Exposure to COVID-related kind acts did not have the same negative consequences, suggesting that not all social media exposure is detrimental for well-being.“
The study concludes with a suggestion of “kindness-scrolling.” Many people have stepped up to help with the world’s issues by performing acts of kindness, big and small. They range from donating money to organizations against social injustice to participating in campaigns to remove tons of trash from oceans. It’s a great idea to remind ourselves of the positivity in the world from time to time by reading/watching and acknowledging those kind acts.
Social media use has undoubtedly increased since the pandemic, and that means we’re more prone to doomscrolling than ever before. It’s up to us to curate the content we consume so that we can stay informed while keeping our mental health intact as much as possible.