The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic downturn have had a detrimental impact on many people’s mental health and created new barriers for those who already suffer from mental health issues. Doom scrolling, often known as doom surfing, is one such effect. It is a result of excessive social media usage and smartphone addiction.
What is Doomscrolling?
The act of “doom surfing/scrolling” involves excessive use of a screen while scrolling primarily through bad news. It’s not uncommon to find oneself swiping through pages in quest of more information about a frightening news story. Many of us can’t seem to stop reading/watching news about the pandemic and the various issues that individuals are facing. We constantly check various websites and news channels in the hopes of learning anything new.
It may surprise you to learn that the occurrence is not new. Because of our negative bias, we are more likely to look for negative news than positive news. However, we are all aware that this is detrimental to our mental health.
How does it affect your mental health?
Social media use has been shown to have a harmful impact on mental health in studies. It causes worry and despair, increases loneliness, and leads to harmful comparisons with others. Doomscrolling now adds another degree of devastation to the misuse of social media, with news headlines about the disease, deaths, violence, and political crises. The consequences for mental health are severe:
- Doomscrolling is a game that reinforces negative feelings and thoughts. When you’re depressed or nervous, it’s natural to look for news and information to validate your feelings. It’s a vicious loop that drags you down.
- It aggravates mental disorders. Existing mental health concerns are exacerbated by this cycle of turning to bad news.
- If you have or are at risk for depression or anxiety, the habit can set off an episode or exacerbate symptoms.
- Doomscrolling intensifies fear and anxiety. Rumination, a harmful habit that exacerbates depression, is triggered by scrolling through gloomy news headlines. It can also make you feel anxious, sometimes leading to panic episodes.
- Doomscrolling keeps you up at night. Many people read through their social media accounts before night, which increases tension just when you’re attempting to go asleep. Sleep deprivation exacerbates stress and other mental health difficulties, perpetuating the vicious cycle.
Five ways to protect your mental health from doomscrolling
Make sure you spend a minimal amount of time on social media. Smartphones have a feature where they can keep a record of the time you spend on each app. It is important to keep this in mind so that you do not fall into the trap of using it all the time. It’s best to avoid scrolling before you go to sleep and right after you wake up.
Keeping your phone away from your bed is the best way to do this. Keep a close eye on your health. Regular exercise promotes the release of feel-good neurotransmitters. De-stressing can also be accomplished through yoga and meditation. While looking through your phone, eat a healthy and balanced diet and avoid eating non-nutritious foods. Mindfulness is a good thing to do. Keep an eye on everything you’re doing.
You must devote undivided attention to whatever you are doing, whether you are reading, writing, or exercising.
Check to see if the news source you’re reading is legitimate. In addition, make it a practice to read happy news and to share it with your friends and family. Try the STOP method. If you’re having trouble controlling the scrolling, use the STOP method. If you feel you’ve gone too far with your screen time and can’t control your fingers, say STOP loudly while giving yourself a physical stimulus, such as a tap on the hand. When you do this often enough, your brain will learn to recognise when it’s time to quit what you’re doing.