What is Doom Scrolling?

What is Doom Scrolling?


What do we do basically after waking up? Most of us look at our smartphones and start scrolling through or tune in to different channels either via television or radio, without even acknowledging how fast time has passed. Scrolling or surfing through has become a casual thing nowadays. But the catch is upon “what attracts us”- there’s a quote that says ‘the power of bad’. It’s always the negative thing that starts circulating faster and attracts us also.

Let’s just recollect the incident that every one of us experienced during the time of the COVID-19 breakthrough. Though we all knew the speculation of how bad the virus was spreading and how worse the situation was, most of us of almost all age groups were still searching through and watching the widespread news which made us more threatened. This article will guide you through the terms that we use for this behaviour, its effects and so much more.

This Doom Scrolling can be compared with the early origin 1970s term- “Mean World Syndrome”, which meant the belief that the world is a more dangerous place to live than it is or was. Doom Scrolling is very similar to that. Though we couldn’t find who coined the term, the word doom scrolling gained popularity, especially during the times of the COVID-19 breakthrough. “Doom scrolling” combines the ominous term “doom,” associated with failure or disaster, with the casual act of “scrolling” through digital content without a specific aim.

The term gained popularity, especially during the times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just after that, researchers started to study it as there seemed to be fewer articles on Doom Scrolling. Other events like the George Floyd Protests, the Russia- Ukraine issue, the US presidential election and so much more brought in popularity.

What is Doom Scrolling?

During times of uncertainty or precariousness, it’s our nature to search for facts and information to protect us from danger or threat. But, when the par exceeds or when it becomes more or less a constant exposure to search or urge to get all the details, that’s the time we should be alert. This urge and constant need is what we call Doom scrolling.

How do we know if we’re Doom scrolling?

You might be doom scrolling if you’re

  • Spending excessive time on social media or television or radio, especially towards negative information or news
  • Increasingly exposed to negative information than you need to be
  • affected negatively after scrolling or surfing through experiencing anxiety, tension or fatigue after constant exposure
  • Having a loss in your sleep and relaxation time
  • Facing a loss in your productivity
Understand the difference between Productive browsing and Doom Scrolling

Surfing through online content differs from individual to individual. There is a huge difference between the need to browse certain things and just simply surfing through. A productive browsing experience involves surfing through with proper intention, focus, and purpose and it is precise to the time when you surf through only till you find a solution to the problem that put you there. Whereas, Doom Scrolling involves an act of mindless, time-sinken and unintentional experience.

Why is Doom Scrolling not a healthy practice?

Doom Scrolling or Doom surfing is a phenomenon of constantly getting exposed to information especially negative during times of uncertainty. People usually get into this behavior to protect them but what happens instead is that they get too much information which might lead to various health issues.

Doom scrolling may affect individual in multiple ways:

  • Regular browsing might lead to anxiety and depression. (Anxiety- a state of worry, nervousness or a vague unpleasant state with the anticipation of something misfortune; Depression – a pessimistic sense of inadequacy)
  • Increase cortisol level: a hormone that is responsible for the fight or flight response caused due to stress says California-based Clinical and Forensic Psychologist Dr Judy Ho.

Other Impacts may Include:

  • Can affect your sleep patterns
  • Can cause Mood swings
  • Loneliness/ helplessness
  • Stress
  • Less engagement or focus on other things
  • Lowers self-esteem
  • May lead to addiction
  • When all of the above happens, it will have an impairment in your physical health

Ways to Stop Doom Scrolling

The following suggestions may help individuals stop or get away from this behaviour:

  • Be Mindful of your actions on and off the internet. Having an avoidance approach towards internet search might help you from Doom scrolling. To be aware of what’s happening in and around you is essential.
  • Set a proper time limit. In times of non-stop scrolling or tuning, setting up timers would help you get away from constant search. Give yourself a break now and then. For example: have a time limit of 20 or 30 minutes for surfing and take an immediate break once your timer starts ringing.
  • Focus more on optimistic things rather than negative information. Have yourself inclined towards positive things happening around you and the world like appreciating small things.
  • Have a break whenever necessary (Especially from social media). This will help you rejuvenate and refresh. Social media is a place where you get to seek necessary and unnecessary stuff. Taking frequent breaks from Facebook and Instagram could help you connect with nature.
  • Practice certain relaxation techniques and meditation when you’re restless.
  • Have a proper support group: have a close set of friends or relatives whom you might rely on during times of uncertainty. Most of us get into watching television or surfing the internet when we lack support. Having someone to hold onto is a very basic human need.
  • Rethink and rework yourself every day. By the end of your day, rethink what all happened in your day, remap and rework for tomorrow.
  • Practice journaling every day, especially Gratitude journaling. This practice would help you get off from continuous surfing. Being thankful even during your pessimistic times will uplift you.
  • Certain tools can limit your browsing which you can download from the Playstore.

In conclusion, Doom Scrolling, the mindless consumption of negative information, can have detrimental effects on mental and physical well-being. Combat this practice by being mindful, setting time limits, focusing on positivity, taking breaks, practising relaxation techniques, cultivating a support system, and utilizing tools for controlled browsing.

Read More Articles from Psychologs

References +
  • https://www.choosingtherapy.com/doomscrolling/
  • https://www.techopedia.com/definition/doomscrolling
  • https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/wellness/a44188974/what-is-doomscrolling/#causes
  • https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/doomscrolling
  • https://observatory.tec.mx/edu-news/doomscrolling/
  • Buchanan, K., Aknin, L. B., Lotun, S., & Sandstrom, G. M. (2021). Brief exposure to social media during the COVID-19 pandemic: Doom-scrolling has negative emotional consequences, but kindness-scrolling does not. PloS one, 16(10), e0257728. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257728

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