How to Step Away from the Screen and Stop Doomscrolling


Have you recently checked your mobile screen time to realize that you are spending way too many hours on social media? You might even realize that what feels like a couple of minutes of checking an app’s feed is actually hours of endless scrolling. If you are an avid news follower, chances are you have been up-to-date with the latest horrors taking place anywhere on the map. With incessant posts, stories, and videos of deaths, injuries, and bombings, there is a high possibility that you are stuck in a vicious circle of sorrow, anger, and helplessness. As a matter of fact, there is now a new term to refer to this widely spread phenomenon: “Doomscrolling”.

Doomscrolling is a new term that came into existence in 2020 during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Oxford English Dictionary even made the term one of its Words of the Year back then. In simple words, doomscrolling refers to the action of constantly scrolling through and reading depressing news on a news site or social media, especially on a phone”. With millions of people quarantined in a global lockdown, feeling anxiously curious about a novel virus, it was common to look for constant updates about the number of infections, symptoms, precautions, etc. We all remember following an online counter for COVID-19 cases in every single country with daily updates as if we were watching FIFA World Cup standings.

After the mitigation of the pandemic’s impact, one would assume that doomscrolling would go away. However, the ongoing urge to check disturbing content online has been on the rise. With algorithms evolving to increase online consumption of social media applications, the desire to stay well-informed on current affairs, such as war, crimes, natural disasters, etc. persists and often leads to an endless cycle of outrage and anxiety.

In a study conducted at Texas Tech University on news consumption, entitled Caught in a Dangerous World: Problematic News Consumption and Its Relationship to Mental and Physical Ill-Being, it was evident that the 24-hour-news cycle could bring about a “constant state of high alert” in some people, making the world seem like a “dark and dangerous place”. Bryan McLaughlin, the study’s lead author and a researcher at Texas Tech University, said: “Be aware of how much news you consume each day. How does it make you feel? These are the questions to start with.”

Based on the responses of surveyed samples of American adults, it was shown that participants “who had moderately, or severely problematic news consumption behavior reported higher levels of mental and physical ill-being relative to those who had non-problematic and minimally problematic news consumption.” In another study, it was shown that individuals who reported spending more time on COVID-19 pandemic-related news were found to experience higher levels of anxiety, distress, stress, and depression (Wathelet et al., 2020).

Staying away from social media or giving it up altogether can sound easier said than done, especially nowadays with more new applications popping up daily and more businesses and institutions digitizing their services. However, with the constant overflood of news, one can take small steps to reduce doomscrolling and its risky consequences on mental and physical health.

As McLaughlin indicated earlier, being aware of how much you consume is key. Luckily, through your mobile phone, you can see how many hours you spend each day on each platform. Thus, you can cap your daily consumption. You may also reduce the amount of content showing up on your feed by unfollowing some accounts. Replacing your doomscrolling with other healthier habits, such as reading, exercising, going out, or listening to music can create a positive distraction.


Cover photo: "Waking up and scrolling on my phone" by dewaelemona is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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