What Doomscrolling Is and Why It’s Not Healthy, Fun or a Good Idea

It’s 12:36 a.m. and you keep scrolling past post after post about the latest health crisis or political scandal with the occasional article about unemployment or climate change thrown in for good measure. You want to stop; you know you should stop — “just one more minute,” you insist — and now it’s 4:00 a.m. If this describes your internet activities, you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of doomscrolling.

Nervous young woman using phone as Doomscrolling example Nervous young woman using phone as Doomscrolling example
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You Know You’re Doomscrolling When …

Doomscrolling describes compulsively scrolling on the internet even when your feed is filled with death, despair and yet another Succession spoiler. If you experience any of the following after mindlessly browsing social media, it may be time to put the phone down.

  • You’ve spent the past hour scrolling through your newsfeed reading about the same terrible event and now you really need a coffee break. Maybe a cupcake too. With sprinkles.

  • You don’t remember why you originally logged on or got your phone out … two hours ago.

  • You find yourself in the middle of your third Twitter argument this week and asking yourself for the 30th time why you replied to this person in the first place.

  • You’re perusing the comments on a post that makes you want to punch a hole in the wall when you could be venting that frustration by punching a bag at the gym. Or, you know, doing something else at least.

  • You get your weekly update on how much time you spent on your phone and are averaging 8 hours and 40 minutes a day. And that’s after you cut down.

  • You currently have 29 tabs open, including that cookie recipe you keep meaning to try, which is naturally sandwiched between articles about inflation rates and the latest COVID numbers.

The Dangers of Doomscrolling

While it’s important to stay informed, it’s not worth risking your mental health. Excessive doomscrolling is a cycle that can worsen mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, disturb your sleep, make you question yourself, or trigger stress hormones.

Some signs that doomscrolling is affecting you include:

  • You feel anxious or depressed every time you log on to social media and continue to feel so minutes or even hours later.

  • You’ve been in a bad mood since you turned your phone off and it’s affecting your interactions with others.

  • You feel a compulsive urge to keep checking your social media even when you’re in the middle of something.

  • You find yourself having negative thoughts and feelings or seeking to confirm those feelings online.

  • You’re having trouble sleeping because you’re trapped in the scrolling cycle or your mind is reeling from all the bad news and negative content.

Why We Doomscroll

So if doomscrolling makes people miserable, why do they keep doing it? According to Tess Brigham, MFT:

“People doom scroll for many different reasons….The main reason is as a way of feeling in control in a world that feels so out of control all the time.”

Just as people will look at a car accident as they pass by, people also linger on negative news as they browse the internet and social media, and algorithms don’t exactly help with that. “We are hardwired to survive and to see the things that could potentially harm us,” Brigham states, which explains the fight or flight impulse that occurs online. It’s natural to want to know what’s happening and what to expect, but this can take a toll on your mental health and well-being.

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When Did Doomscrolling Become a Thing?

The act of doomscrolling has been around since the dawn of time — well, at least the dawn of the internet. The word itself is relatively new, though its exact origins are difficult to determine. Finance reporter Karen Ho traces the possible first use of doomscrolling to a tweet from October 2018. While the word made the rounds for at least a couple of years, doomscrolling did not become widespread until 2020 and 2021 when it surged in popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in political and social tensions.

How to Stop the Doomscroll

There are so many things you could be doing rather than doomscrolling until you want to curl up in a fetal position and never go outside again.

  • Turn off notifications - The doom and gloom will still be there after breakfast, so finish your smoothie in peace.

  • Limit your time online - Set a timer so you don’t spend more than 30 minutes a day on Facebook or scrolling through your Twitter feed on your lunch break, just go straight to your favorite sources.

  • Step away from the phone - If you consistently find yourself doomscrolling at night or reaching for your phone as soon as you wake up, it might be time to take the phone out of your bedroom. Yes, that means an old-fashioned alarm clock, but as long as you resist the urge to smash it with a hammer, you’re good.

  • Pick up print media - Pick up the book that’s been sitting on your shelf for two years (no, absolutely not speaking from experience here) or go old school and get physical newspapers or magazines delivered to you.

  • Dust off your journal - Put that journal you got three birthdays ago to use and write out your thoughts on current events somewhere no one will ever see them. Just don’t leave your diary out where no one can read it (again, totally not speaking from experience).

  • Set aside ‘me time’ - This can mean taking a walk, playing with your dog, catching up on Call of Duty, doing yoga (even goat yoga if you feel so inclined), or simply sitting in silence.

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Instead of Doomscrolling…

Now you know that doomscrolling is not healthy. However, there are plenty of articles you can read online that can be helpful rather than harmful. Here are a few to get you started: