By Andrés Muñoz
War in Ukraine. Human rights violations in countless places in the world. Terrible natural disasters brought about by the climate crisis. Inequality of all kinds. Sometimes it seems that the only information we get is bits and pieces of ever-flowing bad news. Nothing seems to be going right for the past several years, and the worst part of it all is that many of us don’t stop watching! We keep going, scrolling our way through life, regardless of what appears in front of us.
Doomscrolling is the practice of constantly seeking out negative information online. What is the history of this practice? Are there pros and cons? Can you live a happier, healthier lifestyle regarding your screen time? Let’s take a look!
According to several studies, screen time has dramatically increased since the pandemic. People are more connected to their phones now than at any other point in the short history of mobile communication devices. The number of crises happening since 2020 (COVID, George Floyd protests, 2020 US Presidential election and the attack on the United States Capitol, the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, Russian invasion of Ukraine, etc.), coupled with how social media is engineered to extend your screen time as long as possible, and how bad news seems to outsell the good on even traditional media channels, it is very easy for people to be constantly exposed to massive amounts of negative stories.
Doomscrolling can be attributed to the evolutionary trait of anticipating danger. Thousands of years ago, a human living in the wild had to be alert for threats all the time, and remnants of that function still remain in our brains. “We are wired to screen and anticipate danger“, says Cecille Ahrens, clinical director of Transcend Therapy in San Diego, California. The more you know about the threats surrounding you will make you feel better prepared against them. But what happens when that is all we do?
Have you heard of the saying “you are what you eat”? This does not apply just to food. The type, quality, and tone of the content we consume ultimately shape us, so we need to be careful of our online diet. Studies indicate that continuous exposure to negative news is detrimental to your physical and mental well-being.
During the pandemic, I’d constantly review this information dashboard from Johns Hopkins University. What good did it ultimately do to me to know the number of sick and dead people daily? None!
It would have been better for me to focus on an activity that would have helped me grow as a person. Since 2020, I’ve become more conscious in deciding what content I consume. This, however, should not be read as me burying my head in the sand. I am well aware of current events, but at the same time, I refuse to go down a rabbit hole of negative news that might subconsciously affect how I think and feel.
What can we do to avoid such constant exposure to gloomy events? You can start by limiting your screen time, creating a healthier relationship with social media, and pursuing activities away from your screen.
People regularly spend hours on social media applications every day. By limiting this, you can force yourself to prioritise the kind of content you wish to consume, leading to healthier screen time habits. If you need help controlling your moments facing a screen, try downloading an app like StayFree, where you can get a screen time report and even block out applications after a certain amount of usage time or at certain hours of the day.
Another step you can take is to watch out for more positive stories online. Start filtering your social media feeds, nipping off what drains you and following what makes you grow. Follow platforms such as Upworthy or the Good News Network to spend your online time more positively.
We tend to go on social media when bored, so try taking on a healthier hobby that will give you a sense of purpose, relax, or connect you with yourself and others offline. Try cooking or something artistic, like playing a musical instrument or volunteering for a cause that will make a difference. The more time you dedicate to your personal growth, the better it will be. Which leads us to exercise.
Do you know how healthy your body would be if you dedicated your screen time to working out instead? Exercise improves mood by reducing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and releasing happy hormones like endorphins. You focus on an activity that will help your mental and physical health and benefit you more in the long run than staying in bed and scrolling all day long.
Shake the habit of doomscrolling and submerging yourself in the negative, and life will become much more fun! Any other suggestions? Share them in the comments below!