Updated: Sep 22
In today's hyperconnected world, it's no secret that we spend a significant portion of our lives glued to screens. Whether it's checking social media updates, reading the news, or binge-watching the latest series, our devices have become extensions of ourselves. However, there's a darker side to our digital dependence, a behavior that psychologists have dubbed "doomscrolling."
What is Doomscrolling?
Doomscrolling refers to the compulsive and repetitive act of scrolling through an endless stream of negative news or distressing content on the internet. It's that feeling when you start reading a news article or a social media post about a tragic event, and before you know it, hours have passed, and you've sunk deeper into a pit of despair. Doomscrolling is essentially an anxiety-driven feedback loop, where the more you consume negative information, the more anxious and overwhelmed you become.
Why Do We Doomscroll?
To understand why we succumb to doomscrolling, we can turn to psychology and sociology.
1. Negativity Bias: Human brains are wired to pay more attention to negative information. This evolutionary trait once helped us detect threats and survive, but in the digital age, it makes us more susceptible to doomscrolling.
2. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): We're afraid that if we don't keep up with the latest news, we'll miss something important or be left out of conversations. This fear drives us to constantly refresh our feeds.
3. Dopamine and Social Validation: Every like, comment, or share on social media triggers a release of dopamine, the brain's pleasure chemical. We keep scrolling in search of this reward, seeking social validation through our online interactions.
4. Emotional Contagion: Social media platforms are designed to spread information and emotions quickly. When we see others engaging in doomscrolling, it can trigger a herd mentality, making us feel like we should do the same.
5. Algorithmic Feeds: Algorithms tailor our online experience to show us more of what we engage with. If you click on a negative news story, the algorithm will feed you more of the same.
The Toll Doomscrolling Takes on Mental Health
Research has shown that doomscrolling can have severe consequences on mental health. Constant exposure to negative news and distressing content can lead to increased anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress symptoms. The longer you doomscroll, the more your sense of hopelessness grows, creating a vicious cycle that's challenging to break.
How to Stop Doomscrolling
Breaking free from doomscrolling is a challenging but essential endeavor. Here are some strategies, grounded in theory and research, to help you regain control of your digital habits:
1. Set Boundaries: Establish strict time limits for your screen time and stick to them. Use features on your device to set app-specific timers and reminders.
2. Curate Your Feed: Unfollow or mute accounts that consistently share negative or distressing content. Instead, follow accounts that share positive news, personal growth, or hobbies that interest you.
3. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, can help you become more aware of your digital habits and break the automatic scrolling cycle.
4. Limit News Consumption: Choose reliable news sources and allocate a specific time of day to catch up on current events. Avoid consuming news right before bedtime to improve sleep quality.
5. Seek Positive Engagement: Instead of passively scrolling, actively engage with content that uplifts you. Leave positive comments, share inspiring stories, or create your content to share your passions and interests.
6. Digital Detox: Take regular breaks from your devices, especially during weekends or vacations. Disconnecting from the digital world can rejuvenate your mental health.
7. Stay Informed Responsibly: It's essential to stay informed about important issues, but you can do so in a healthier way. Choose reliable sources, limit your daily news intake, and verify information before sharing it.
8. Connect with the Physical World: Spend time with loved ones, engage in hobbies, and get outdoors. Physical activities and real-world interactions can help you break the digital spell.
In conclusion, doomscrolling is a behavior born from our innate psychological tendencies and amplified by the digital age. It takes a toll on our mental health, but with awareness and proactive measures, we can regain control over our online habits. By setting boundaries, curating our online experiences, and practicing mindfulness, we can break free from the doomscrolling loop and reclaim our digital sanity. Remember, it's not about disconnecting from the digital world but using it in a way that enriches our lives rather than detracts from them. If you need some extra help, seek out support with Boundless Therapy. Our expert therapists can help you reclaim your relationship with technology. Begin your journey today with Boundless.
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