We’re all guilty of it. That almost compulsive need to scroll, knowing that all you’ll find is bad news and stressful stats. You never really know what you’re looking for, and eventually give up and lock your phone with a renewed sense of dread…. Welcome to doomscrolling. 😨 By Sadia Nowshin.
Sounds ominous 😬
“Doomscrolling” is definitely not a happy word. Referencing ‘end of times’ vibes, it encompasses the idea that the news we are scrolling to find is always going to be bad, filling you with a sense of dread at the state of the world.
Part of the reason why we are deliberately looking for this kind of news could be attributed to “mean world syndrome”. A cognitive bias borne out of the increase in violent content being freely and increasingly available on the mass media, ‘mean world syndrome’ is where you perceive the world to be more dangerous than it actually is.
The media, news and images we consume on a daily basis skews our outlook on the state of humanity, and so we’re more likely to be affected by and ‘believe’ bad news in favour of any happy stories.
What are the effects?
As a journalist, funnily enough being up to date with the news is pretty important to me, but I’ve recently committed to setting myself limits when it comes to how often I scroll. Breaching those limits is very easy when there seems to be 100 different events happening at once: by the time I’ve caught up with the pandemic, politics, US election, international conflicts, culture news and climate updates, there’s little space in my brain left for anything else.
Thankfully, I’m not alone in my compulsive need to stay informed: more people have found themselves compelled to scroll through pages of news updates, even when they know the effect it’ll have on their mood and stress levels.
Sometimes, we’re our own worst enemy: “As humans, we have a ‘natural’ tendency to pay more attention to negative news”, Mesfin Bekalu, a research scientist for Health and Happiness at Harvard, pointed out. Unfortunately, our attention is caught by big, scary headlines and as a result, bad news sells.
How do I stop?! HELP
Believe me, I know how addictive doomscrolling can be, especially when it feels like there’s just so much happening to keep up with right now. Sometimes, even though you might worry that you’ll miss out on some big news, the healthiest thing to do is just switch off.
I know that’s easier said than done, so here’s how you can give yourself the best chance of success:
- If you find your daily news check is getting you down, make an effort to look for some positive news, too. It might not seem like it right now, but there are still some lovely things happening in the world (which we try and highlight in our Take 5 digests every morning!). To make that even easier, sign up to our brand new Winter Warmer newsletter for a slice of wholesome positivity every week, perfect to combat that sense of existential dread.
- Doomscrolling can become a compulsive habit, so treat it the same as biting your nails or impulse shopping – schedule your news time into the day and keep to that limit. Being informed is great, but letting it take over your life isn’t.
- Rethink your social media circles. Twitter is great for staying up to date, but a timeline full of news can become overwhelming. Make yourself a private account where you can follow all the wholesome, silly accounts you want and switch to that feed when the serious stuff is getting a bit heavy. (@poorlydrawncats is my fave, 10/10 would recommend.)
- Distract yourself with achievable goals. Every time you feel the urge to kill time by scrolling, read a chapter of a book (one recommended in our very own Culture Picks, perhaps 😏), start a painting or complete a little task on a big project. A lot of doomscrolling is rooted in a feeling of helplessness, so make yourself feel useful.
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