“I’ll watch a couple more clips… And a little more… Now I have to check my favorite channel, in case they wrote something… And two more rounds at Vikings-go-wild.com… And a couple more clips…” That’s how hours go by. It’s a phenomenon you’ve probably come across more than once – doomscrolling. Let’s find out what it is, how a person’s brain gets addicted to a smartphone, and how to get rid of it.
What Is Doomscrolling
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, it was noticed that people all over the world began spending hours reading upsetting and demotivating news. As a result of such reading, one’s mood declines rapidly and one becomes pessimistic, but cannot stop flipping through the feed and switch to positive thinking. The New York Times called this phenomenon doomscrolling, and the term has caught on in various languages.
Doomscrolling refers to the tendency to read long and compulsively, scrolling through a ribbon of bad news that causes negative emotions and demotivates a person.
How Widespread the Problem Is
Many scientists are now investigating the phenomenon of doomscrolling and concluding that it’s a new global disease.
Researchers at Texas Tech University conducted a large study in which they interviewed 1,100 people and studied their behavior and psychological state. 16.5% of them showed signs of “extremely problematic news consumption”, another 27.3% were found to be “moderately problematic”. Those who, according to the scientists, suffered from doomscrolling were noted to have higher levels of stress, anxiety, and a general deterioration in health.
People suffering from doomscrolling get caught in a vicious cycle and, instead of breaking it, get more and more involved, obsessing over the news and refreshing the pages around the clock. But it doesn’t help, and the more they get “stuck” in the ever-evolving news, the more this tendency begins to interfere with other aspects of life.
According to this study, 27.5% of respondents experienced a minimal impact of doomscrolling on their lives, and 28.7% had no problem with compulsive news reading.
The Harm of Doomscrolling
Dr. Kate Munnell, a media researcher at Deakin University in Victoria, Australia, has proven that the coronavirus epidemic has actually made the public more prone to constantly checking the news. This isn’t surprising: People around the world have faced a new threat and also found themselves quarantined, where they have more time to procrastinate.
People who doomscrolling are trying to keep themselves safe from the threats of the world around them. It seems to them that the more they know about external dangers, the more they are protected. However, it turns out that people, on the contrary, are harming themselves.
Absorbing negative information in large quantities, a person falls into apathy and he may have the following symptoms:
- Increased anxiety.
- A feeling of isolation.
- Depressive states.
- Headaches and dizziness.
- Concentration problems.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Decreased appetite or overeating.
Who Suffers Often
Researchers at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin studied the mental state and interaction habits with online content of patients with COVID-19 in 2020. Researchers say they found a critical threshold of time in which it’s safe for the psyche to browse the news is 2.5 hours of daily media exposure. Patients who browsed news feeds and social media for longer than this time often showed symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Of course, these statistics don’t take into account people’s individual differences. Some can comfortably absorb news for hours without any noticeable psychological effects, while others exhibit an obsessive media obsession.
The symptoms of doomscrolling are partly similar to some of the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. By constantly updating the newsfeed during difficult times, anxious people try to prove to themselves that they are in control. It’s important for them to know what is happening around them (even if it’s disappointing news), and being in the dark for them means being in danger.
Doomscrolling is an obsessive need to try to find out the answers. It’s human nature to watch out for potential danger – it’s a biological and evolutionary mechanism. But in today’s world, the ever-increasing amount of information has become another threat to humans and their psyche, so the content we consume needs to be controlled and strictly limited.
How to Get Rid of Doomscrolling
Doomscrolling is an addiction, so the first thing to recognize is that scrolling has become a problem that needs to be dealt with.
Giving up information completely and taking a “smartphone vacation” is likely to seem almost impossible. Try to consume information in longer formats – read a selection of the day’s top news in the evening or analytical analyses of specific topics of concern to you.
Set a limit to the amount of time you spend online.
Limit your sources of information. Read one or more of your favorite and trusted media outlets.
Balance out the bad news with positive content. Watch entertaining shows and good movies, follow friends’ publications (if they share positive information), read books and channels on your interests and hobbies. Many people also enjoy animal videos.
If you feel like you can’t stop following the cataclysmic events around you just yet, distract yourself as often as possible with nice things to do:
- Socialize with family and friends.
- Play board games.
- Go for walks.
- Watch shows and movies.
- Study something you have been meaning to for a long time.
- Listen to music and podcasts.
- Read books.
- Interact with animals.
- Cook and/or eat good food.
- Engage in manual labor and hobbies: embroidery, clay molding, painting, puzzles.
- Take a warm bath.
- Do sports.
The more interesting things you find to do, the easier it will be to “pull yourself out” of the mire of doomscrolling.
What Are Time Killers
Another addiction faced by today’s adults and children is time killers.
Time killers waste a person’s time, energy, and creativity. They are meaningless habits that have no value.
The most common time killers are gadget-related. These are social networks, the habit of devouring entertainment content in unlimited quantities, and playing games on the phone.
Think back to what you do when you’re standing in line, riding in transportation, and what you’re distracted by while you’re doing work tasks or homework. Chances are, you’re turning on something on your smartphone that helps kill time.
How to Deal With Time Killers
Start making a plan for your day and writing down how much time it will take you approximately to complete each task. This will help you avoid wasting hours.
Download an app on your laptop and smartphone that will track your activities throughout the day. You can see your activity right in your settings.
Set a lock on games and recreational social media. When the allotted time is up, the app will notify you or lock you in until the next day.
Avoid multitasking at work and study. Train yourself to get things done without switching to short breaks or small tasks that you suddenly remembered. If you’re afraid that you’ll forget to do something, write down plans in a note or on a piece of paper. Multitasking at work can reduce productivity by 40%.