A Brief Note on Doomscrolling
News on social media, especially negative content has been troubling people a lot. Still, many of us prefer devouring such negative or troubling stories or news online. Recently, “Doomscrolling” has become quite popular and many people are engaged with it every day.
What exactly does “doomscrolling” mean? Doomscrolling, also known as doomsurfing refers to excessive scrolling through bad or negative news on social media.(1) This can become a compulsive habit in people and affect their mental and physical health. Thus, doomscrolling is extremely bad for our health.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, online news consumption increased by 35%, and people who received their news through social media increased by 47%, contributing to doomscrolling.(2)
Study That Sheds Light on Doomscrolling
Doomscrolling is the obsessive urge to scroll through negative, bad, scary, or tragic news over the internet. It is a new concept in mental health research and has attracted significant attention in the past few years.(3)
A study published in the journal Health Communication explains more about doomscrolling.(4) Researchers used survey data from a national sample of U.S. adults (1, 100 individuals) to look at the problematic behaviors of the obsessive urge to scroll through bad news online. The research has demonstrated how the obsessive urge to scroll through negative news online brings out negative physical and mental results.
The authors of the study found that 16.5% of the adults surveyed showed signs of severely problematic news consumption (seriously engaged in doomscrolling), which resulted in greater levels of anxiety, stress, and poor health. It was also found that those who go through doomscrolling have poorer well-being than those who consume less negative news or those who are not involved with doomscrolling.
Why Do People Doomscroll?
Everything has a reason. There are many reasons why people doomscroll. Let us take a look below to know why people doomscroll.
Feeling Upset About Something in the News
People obsessively scroll through negative news because they feel upset about something in the news and thus want to have more information about it. This might hamper how one feels and impact their mental and physical health negatively.
Fear of Missing Out
One more reason why people doomscroll is their fear of missing out. People doomscroll because they want to have all the information regarding anything interesting and important, irrespective of the fact that it might be so negative that it can harm their health in various ways.
Lack of Self-Control
Some people lack self-control, and when it comes to going through online news, they seriously have that urge to doomscroll without any limit.
Some people use doomscrolling to manage their anxiety, without knowing the fact that this habit could also contribute to further anxiety.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can also be one more reason why people use doomscrolling. OCD is a mental health issue, where the mind of an affected person might fixate on a specific topic, and they might doom scroll while trying to ease anxiety about it. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help in breaking this cycle.
Exploring Why Doomscrolling is Bad for Health
Negative Effect of Doomscrolling on Mental Health
Doomscrolling Increases Panic and Worry
Doomscrolling Reinforces Negative Thoughts and Feelings
Doomscrolling reinforces negative thoughts and feelings, such as feeling depression or anxious. When someone has such negative thoughts, there is a tendency to seek out such negative news and information. This is an extremely harmful cycle that keeps them feeling low and depressed.
It Causes Anxiety and Depression
About one-third of American adults have anxiety.(2) Doomscrolling increases the risk of mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, stress, and difficulty sleeping.
Apart from this, scrolling through negative news or stories online can also impact our emotional health, contributing to sadness, fear, and excessive negative thoughts. Frequent exposure to negative or bad information with doomscrolling can lead to stress responses from the sympathetic nervous system.
Doomscrolling Worsens Mental Illnesses
If someone has depression or an anxiety disorder, or if they are prone to these illnesses or feelings, the habit of doomscrolling can worsen symptoms.
Doomscrolling Interferes With Sleep
Usually, most individuals tend to scroll through their feeds just before bed, and scrolling through negative stories online increases anxiety which can interfere with your sleep.
Doomscrolling Trigger Stress Hormones
Doomscrolling increases stress and levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. So, the more someone is engaged in doomscrolling, the more cortisol and adrenaline are released in their brain and body. This ultimately causes more stress and impacts, both, mental and physical health.
Negative Effect of Doomscrolling on Physical Health
Doomscrolling Interferes With Other Activities
Domscrolling also negatively impacts physical health. Scrolling through negative news stories daily can become a habit that can interfere with other activities, duties, and normal daily life. Doomscrolling can make you feel like not exercising or exercising less, eating unhealthy foods, and can contribute to weight gain.
Can Result in Increased Risk of Several Diseases
Scrolling through negative stories can increase the risk of autoimmune diseases, fatigue, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It can lead to multiple adverse effects even when an individual is unaware of the problem.
A Glance at Various Ways to Avoid Doomscrolling
Certain steps can be taken to avoid doomscrolling. Some of them include:
- Limit yourself to using social media and going through news during set times of the day. For this, you can set an alarm that will keep you informed when the time is over.
- Limit or unfollow the online sources that post the most negative news or that stress you more.
- Set your news and social media applications to not send notifications.
- If you catch yourself scrolling too much negative news, take a break and notice your feelings. If you are feeling stressed, anxious, sad, or agitated, that is the sign that tells you to go offline.
- Try to come out of doomscrolling and focus on the present moment. Go for mindfulness meditation.
- Stop using your smartphones or other microcomputers at least two hours before you go to bed. It is good to keep your phone or tablet out of the bed.
- Engage yourself in several real-world activities like exercising, outing, spending time with family and friends, painting, writing, taking a nature walk, or anything such that can take you offline.
When we are exposed more to negative, tragic, or scary news online and continuously consume it, then we are engaged in doomscrolling. This can be a big reason to worry as it can harm our physical, mental, and emotional health. Scrolling through negative news can lead to prolonged feelings of sadness, fear, and anxiety, and can increase depression and stress in us. Moreover, our physical health is also hampered due to doomscrolling and there are possibilities of gaining weight, fatigue, and high blood pressure. So, it is essential to prevent doomscrolling by following various real-world activities like book-reading, exercising, gardening, and so on. However, if you doomscroll excessively and think you might have depression or anxiety, make sure to reach out to your doctor or an expert mental health professional and take the necessary treatment.
- Doomscrolling Scale: its Association with Personality Traits, Psychological Distress, Social Media Use, and Wellbeing – PMC (nih.gov)