What exactly is doomscrolling? If you’ve spent this lockdown period reading about the surge of Covid cases, you’ve probably heard about it. But in case you haven’t heard, Merriam Webster defines doomscrolling and doomsurfing as “the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back”. As you might expect, the term derives from the word “doom”, which refers to darkness, catastrophic events, and death. Are you obsessed with pain? Do you obsessively scroll through social media or watch the news for new Covid cases or strains? Doomscrolling is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a rollercoaster ride that gives us stress and excitement at the same time, and we can’t stop ourselves.

It is estimated that we spend at least two hours per day scrolling through news feeds (and nowadays, most of which is bad news). However, too much of this is extremely harmful to our bodies and minds, contributing to even more stress. We are constantly checking for news in this age of information overload, which is affecting our mental health and even the normal functioning of our brain. It goes without saying that the current pandemic and lockdown have had a significant impact on the global landscape of mental health and exacerbated the already severe mental healthcare crisis in countries such as India. Furthermore, the grief of losing loved ones in families, combined with the fear of losing a job and income during this period, has transformed our daily lives. As social media has become an integral part of human life in this era of pandemic and lockdown, many of us are finding it difficult to avoid constantly reading and watching the news about Covid-19 and searching for more information. This doom surfing or doom scrolling has become an addictive habit.

What is Doomscrolling and how to break the cycle
Image: Shutterstock

Psychologists have explained this as a consequence of the prolonged nature of the pandemic. Apart from the initial fear of the virus and lockdown, even after a year, with no seeming end to the pandemic in sight, anger and depression have replaced fear. While doomscrolling can be traced back to humans’ proclivity for reacting more strongly to negative news and prioritizing it over positive news, it is clear that the current sociopolitical situation has become the purveyor of this pervasive exercise. So, how do you break free from this habit?

Social Media Detox: Take a break from social media, which is arguably the most difficult thing to do during this lockdown. However, we can set time limits for social media and news apps. Rather than checking the phone for news in the morning and evening, enjoy the fresh air. It would also be beneficial to disable news notifications, which constantly appear and take up a large portion of the mobile screen. Social media detox is beneficial to overall mental health, but if you can’t avoid it entirely, limit the amount of time you spend scrolling through a constant stream of information.

Practice Healthy Living:  It is extremely important to stay physically healthy during this pandemic. Staying away from the news at night can help you get enough sleep, and regular exercise can improve your overall mood, reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, and improve your memory. Exercise is no longer just for weight loss or gain, but several studies have found a link between exercise and emotional well-being. Make it a habit to set aside time every day for regular workouts and meditations. It has the ability to automatically reduce the addiction to consuming negative news. In addition to exercise, it is critical to practice self-discipline when it comes to healthy eating habits. Emotional eating, due to stress or boredom, should be avoided.

What is Doomscrolling and how to break the cycle - Exercise-workout
Image: Mikhail Nilov

Stay Connected: It is critical to maintaining contact with those you care about in order to cope effectively with stress and anxiety. This is not only because of the current pandemic, but our hectic lifestyle has long kept us isolated and reliant on social media. It’s time to buck the trend and reconnect with your high school and college pals. This is also an excellent time to exercise your creativity by learning new skills. Social media can be used to showcase your abilities. Reading books or taking up new hobbies can help us reduce stress and reconnect with our passions and identities.

When the future appears uncertain, worrying about it incessantly makes no sense. Let us instead concentrate on the present and enjoy it. Avoid consuming dystopian news and Covid-19-related media on a daily basis; otherwise, you will be wasting your time. Doomscrolling is an addiction, a perverse pleasure of flooding your mind with toxic doom-and-gloom thoughts. One should avoid the habit of endlessly scrolling down the news app for interesting statistics or hateful political information. This pandemic is not all doom and gloom, and one of the positive aspects is the time it gives us for self-development. We shouldn’t squander that time doomscrolling.

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Soumik Sarkar
Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Adamas University. Served as an Economist in the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC). Contributor to The Eastern Herald.