17 Jul Are You Doomscrolling Right Now? Here’s How To Stop.
Reading the news is important. Keeping yourself informed about current affairs promotes social and global awareness. It enhances engagement with community, and can aid critical thinking skills. However, sometimes the kind of news stories we come across can also be damaging to our mental health. News of the unrelentingly bad kind can cause anxiety, stress and fatigue.
There is a point where the damage done to your mental health by reading the news outweighs its benefits. When we continue to read beyond this, despite the negative toll the content has already taken on our mental health, we are ‘doomscrolling‘.
Humans are naturally curious. We love new information, so reading the news – whether good or bad – can be addictive. When you combine this with our addiction to our phones, and the online world, where we have a huge number of news outlets at our fingertips, it’s a wonder we ever put our phones down at all.
Of course, earlier this year, we rarely did. The constant waves of breaking stories about new coronavirus cases and new countries’ containment efforts, together with live updating global case statistics and daily updated death count kept us scrolling into the night. With lockdown keeping us inside, doomscrolling was how we whittled away the hours.
We were very aware that endlessly reading the news wasn’t making us happy. It was causing panic and despair. We know that too long spent on social media is bad for our mental health. When the content keeping us hooked is only bad news, the effects are exacerbated.
We all understand the value of physical rest, so why is it a struggle to we let our minds rest as well? Too often we see going on our phone as an activity for winding down, often done before bed, when in reality it’s the opposite. Doomscrolling is damaging our mental health. How can we stop?
Set yourself time to engage with the news, and stick to this
Instead of just scrolling through newsfeeds throughout the day, set yourself just 30 minutes to keep informed. Or, decide you’re not going to read much online in the day, but watch the 6 o’clock news. We’re all fond of the 10 o’clock news in the UK, but hearing stories that late could negatively impact your sleep, with anxiety keeping you awake. Cut back on late-night news consumption.
Pick your favourite news outlets and stick with those
When newspapers were our primary source of news, there was a finite amount of content that we could consume per day. Now that most of use digital sources, there is an endless bank of stories from a variety of outlets across the web. Identify the ones you trust and stick to a few.
Unsubscribe from news-heavy media
Many outlets give their stories the most shocking and attention-grabbing headlines to get the most views. Stop letting those anxiety inducing posts interrupt your time spent on social media, and clog up your feed. Unsubscribe and unfollow. You’ll still be able to access news and see what your favourite outlets are reporting, but having to click on their profile to do so will make it a more conscious decision. Don’t let them target you and cause you to doomscroll.
Be away from your phone
Cook a meal, go for a walk, spend time with your partner or friends. Taking a break from your phone will allow you to take back some time from doomscrolling and spend it on yourself. By occupying yourself with analogue activities you’ll find you can truly relax.
Stop treating the news as your primary source of info
The news is great in helping us to rapidly get a grip of live-breaking stories, but it shouldn’t be what we use to educate ourselves about world affairs with.
If you want to read up on the events preempting a certain event in the news, books might be a better source. That they are not dealing with breaking stories will make for a calmer, more objective presentation of facts, with the benefit of retrospect for added clarity. Furthermore, ‘fake news’ will not be as big a worry. Books are more likely to be fact-checked, whereas breaking stories are often just hastily written and pushed out in a frantic attempt to be the first outlet to cover this particular story.
If you have any tips or suggestions for people who might be letting their doomscrolling get out of control – get in touch, we’d love to share them with everyone in the Time To Log off community.