By Katherine Kilcullen

We’ve all done it – spent hours on our phones or devices scrolling through tweet after tweet or video after video, falling into a dark hole of depressing and traumatic news intake. It’s easy to fall into. It starts innocently, checking Twitter or TikTok before bed, just catching up on the most viral videos or information. Next thing you know, you’re scrolling through content about the most recent mass shooting, angry tweets about politicians, and posts with videos of the last natural disaster. By the time you realize it’s been two hours, you’re anxious, angry, and feeling heavy. 

Doomscrolling – what is it? 

That destructive cycle of scrolling is most commonly referred to as doomscrolling. Doomscrolling is typically defined as a habit of scrolling through social media where users obsessively look for negative information. With the rise of algorithmic systems, this compulsive scrolling can affect all of us and the way we interact with our social media apps. The more time we spend interacting with certain content, the more of that content enters our feed. The more content in our feed, the more we’re scrolling and getting sucked into the negative and targeted news content. It’s a vicious cycle. 

There are already a ton of studies that explain the negative effects of social media, and doomscrolling only increases these effects. Depression and anxiety levels spike when you spend an excessive amount of time consuming negative or traumatic content. Feelings of hopelessness increase and so do issues with sleep. If you are someone who already struggles with these feelings, doomscrolling may intensify them. 

So what do I do about it?

Limiting your time on social media is easier said than done, but there are ways to combat the cycle. First things first: ask yourself where you get your news. If your main news source is Instagram or Facebook, you may want to find another source to get the news. Perhaps, trying an unbiased news podcast such as The NewsWorthy, or subscribing to newsletters from news agencies you enjoy, such as the New York Times. Getting your news in a controlled and consistent way can help you determine what information on social media you actually want to spend time looking at and hopefully decrease the chances of your algorithm getting flooded with news. 

Second, if you know you are a pre-bedtime scroller, try setting alarms as reminders to put your phone away and go to sleep. If you do get caught in a doomscrolling pattern, having an alarm snap you out of it can sometimes bring you back to reality. There are also many apps that can help limit your access to social media and other websites for certain periods of time. Freedom is an app that can help block apps for certain amounts of time. Breakfree is another app that helps challenge you to reduce time on social media. 

Lastly, implementing mindful social media breaks can be helpful in limiting the amount of time doomscrolling. For example, deleting your apps during weekdays and redownloading them on Fridays and Saturdays, or picking a week or two out of the month to focus on things not on your phone. 

How can I stay informed on current events without doomscrolling? 

As I mentioned before, finding an unbiased news podcast or subscribing to a newsletter can help you stay informed on important topics. If an event happens that you are trying to stay up to date on, set limits for how much time you’re able to spend on your phone. Avoid your preferred social media apps if there is an ongoing situation that may cause you to fall into doomscrolling. 

Finally, have grace with yourself. It’s hard to break these cycles and look away when the news can be emotive or inflammatory. If you’re finding yourself struggling with managing your intake of the news cycle and how it is affecting your mental health, book an appointment with me. Let’s work together to help you through it.