What is “Doomscrolling?”

For some, this is a familiar scenario: you wake up and start incessantly scrolling your phone before you even get out of bed. During an average day—which might include remote work, entertaining kids, searching for work, or just filling time—you find yourself clicking away. Then, at night when you can’t fall asleep, you stare at the phone or computer screen again, searching…but for what exactly?

It could be you’ve fallen into the habit of “doomscrolling.”

Think about it for a minute. Is this habit of collecting daily events serving a purpose? Or is it simply a poorly-placed distraction? Does the action itself make you feel better, give you a sense of accomplished, or make you more knowledgeable? Or, does it instead encourage a negative emotional response to important news, stoking nervous feelings to a higher point?

Various types of quarantine routines are leading to a new discussion over our habits, both those that are healthy, and those that might be cause for concern. One of these potentially self-destructive habits is the perpetual reading of bad news, thus the term “doomscrolling.” Whether it’s an attempt to keep informed about current public safety measures and global occurrences, or it’s just a way to persevere during an unusual time in human history, this consumption of bad news is worrisome. Finding yourself stuck in an “everything is awful” mindset could, at some point, create a trickle-down effect by breeding anxiety.

Everyone is experiencing this pandemic differently and, yet, one thing remains constant—our fascination with the news, no matter the topic. The act of constantly rechecking current events is a trend that may be impacting our mental health. During what is an unpredictable time for many, this habit is creating a repetitive cycle of behavior and causing undue stress. By giving it a label and talking about it, we are bringing attention to this behavior as a way  to help others change the pattern.

So, how does one go about breaking the cycle of staring down the tunnel of depressing article titles and not clicking on every one of them? There’s no one right answer, and finding a solution will differ for everyone. Here are a couple of ideas, though:

  1.  Health experts are stressing the need for outdoor activity during quarantine and social distancing. Spending time in nature is proven to reduce stress, and stepping away from the screen is maybe more important now than ever before.
  2. Set a timer or replace the endless loop with positive action, something uplifting, or a social connection.
  3. Take a media break and give yourself a few days off. You might be surprised to find little has changed, and that it’s easy enough to “catch up.”

Since our minds are hardwired to look for threats, the act of “doomscrolling” only creates more fearful scenarios in our thought patterns. Small changes like these might just alter your outlook, even if it’s one bowl of ice cream or one funny video at a time. What’s important to know about this habitual trend is that fads change, and everyone plays a part in influencing that, even those who are tempted to scroll after reading this article.