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What is “Doomscrolling” and what can you do about it?


What is Doomscrolling?

Doom-scrolling is an excessive amount of screen time dedicated to absorbing negative news. We’ve all been victims of it more than once just in the past two years. In addition to content, opinions and emotions also flood our shared internet community. With the number of high-profile events that have occurred since the start of 2020, it can be difficult to look away. 

Why do we do it??

The main reason people doom scroll is to feel in control in a world that feels so out of control. Despite a large number of scientific and psychological reasons as to why this is so, let’s take a slightly existential look. In pre-industrial and pre-agrarian times, humans were social and lived in smaller foraging communities and villages. As a result, we didn’t evolve to absorb such a large amount of information and news. Taking a closer look at “negative” news objectively and subjectively, then how does that impact individuals and society as a whole?

Traffic accidents are another metaphor to understand why we doom scroll. If you’re traveling on the highway and see an accident ahead, everyone in front of you is likely slowing down to see what’s going on. It’s a natural reaction. In the past, our ancestors were forced to flee from predatory animals, plagues, and natural disasters.

What can we do about it?

How we cope with stress is influenced by our individual experiences. The antidote to Doomscrolling is the most practical one – to simply stop. 

How do I stop Doomsurfing?

Take note of what’s happening. Notice when you’re feeling stressed. Is your heart rate up? Do you feel frozen, or like you can’t stop scrolling through the content? Do you feel an urge to feel more informed by consuming more and more? If you can realize when your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) is activated, you can catch yourself and stop. You can put the phone down, take a breather, and feel the emotions that you’re feeling. Take a walk, scream, punch a pillow – whatever you need to do within reason – then disengage. Call a friend, drink water, or practice a self-care ritual that you enjoy. 

If you need to, talk to your therapist. Sometimes, doing something tangible with your hands, like holding a cup of tea or coffee, or a stress ball, can help you disengage. Do what you would normally do to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (rest, relax, calm). 

Remember, you are the expert on what you need. We’re all in this together, and contact a mental health professional if you need to. Doom-scrolling does not equal being informed and it’s okay to put it down for awhile if it’s affecting your life. 

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