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Photo credit: CLÉMENT FALIZE VIA UNSPLASH

What is doomscrolling and how it affects your mental health

Too much news is never good news.

Matthaeus Choo
Matthaeus Choo

Published: 8 December 2021, 12:41 PM

We’ve all been there before: You’re finally all cuddled up in bed after a long day with nothing else to do but to scroll up and down on your phone before you fall asleep. 

You check social media and, in between all the photos of your friends’ pets and kids, you get sucked into a piece of terrible news; they’re not too hard to find nowadays anyway. 

The Internet has given us all the ability to keep up to date with the latest ongoing events throughout the world. Scrolling through social media and news sites are usually the first and last things we do every day. 

However, this gift may be a curse especially when it develops into an obsession. 

Yes, it’s important to be informed and, yes, it may be difficult to peel your eyes away from arguments in comments sections. But there is only so much information we can all take and this obsession, neatly dubbed “doomscrolling”, can be detrimental to our mental health.

The ill-effects of social media on our lives are well-documented and well-discussed. Doomscrolling isn’t a new phenomenon either, but it has definitely been far more prominent during the pandemic. 

With ever-fluctuating safety measures limiting our interactions with friends and the outside world, and with still no indication of the mythical light at the end of the tunnel, all of us will be tempted to seek every tiny bit of information to make sense of everything. We want to be in control amid all the uncertainty.

All of us might be naturally addicted to bad news as well.

A writer from rewire.org spoke to psychologists and found that our brains might be hardwired to better remember bad news, and that bad news can excite our nervous system. Another report from Australia’s bodyandsoul.com also determines bad news as a source of adrenaline.

 

doom-scrolling-phone-internet-news
A study in Germany has shown that participants with more news consumption were also found to have symptoms of anxiety and depression / IMAGE CREDIT: MANUEL DEL MORAL VIA UNSPLASH

 

Besides, it’s always difficult to look away from trainwrecks. And there seems to be disastrous news from every corner of the world every single day. 

It creates a vicious cycle where social media posts about bad news become hotbeds for angry commentators and discussions, and even non-participants are drawn in due to our craving for connection. 

The only winners in this situation are news outlets racking up engagements.

Studies on doomscrolling have found correlations between phone use, news consumption and mental health issues, namely anxiety and depression. 

However, we can’t afford to be hermits and be blissfully uninformed either, nor can we quarantine ourselves in echo chambers where all we read and hear are news and opinions that we want to hear. 

As with just about everything in life, moderation will be key to combat doomscrolling. 

There are plenty of phone apps we can employ to limit our screen times; iPhone users, for example, have built-in digital health apps that they can use. 

Another alternative is through developing a different habit for the start and end of days, such as reading a book or morning meditations. Or there’s mindline.sg, a one-stop home for mental health-related resources, such as mindfulness exercises.


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