The Unhealthy Habit of Doomscrolling

woman scrolling on her phone at night

AmCon is committed to “keeping the Members up-to-date on current events and threat models they may be exposed to.” If we are not careful the “keeping current” part of the mission can lead to doomscrolling…

Doomscrolling is the obsessive intake of bad news, even when it creates anxiety and worry.  Despite knowing how it makes you feel, you just can’t seem to stop yourself from consuming this toxic information.  

Finance reporter Karen Ho originally discovered the term on Twitter, and it turns out that there are good reasons why we are so likely to fall into the destructive habit.  

Media psychologist Pamela Rutledge explains:

“The tendency to doomscroll is a result of how the human brain is wired. Our brains instinctively pay attention to any potentially dangerous situation as part of the biological imperative of survival. Our brains are designed to constantly scan the horizon for potential threats. Since threats are more important to our survival than other information, we pay more attention to the negative information than to the positive. When there are no answers or conflicting answers, more information doesn’t increase our sense of safety, so we scroll in pursuit of better answers, and so on.”  

It’s a seemingly never-ending cycle of negativity and unhappiness. That’s not the outcome we want. That’s not our goal!

No Easy Solution

Self-regulation and minimizing the time you spend consuming negative information is far easier said than done, and doomscrolling is especially difficult to control if you’ve been at it for a long time. It takes a good bit of determination, focus, and cognitive energy to overcome the instincts and emotional reactions that drive that type of negative behavior.

Self-awareness is vital if you want to overcome the habit of doomscrolling.  Even more importantly, you’ll want to replace that toxic habit. Instead fill up the time usually spent scrolling for information with things that uplift you.
That’s the easiest way to overcome this habit and create positive routines that add value to your life.

Studies have linked poor mental health to regular exposure to negative news sources that cover traumatic events like natural disasters, terrorist bombings, political non-sense, and of course, the global pandemic.  The more news you consume, the more likely you are to become stressed, anxious, and depressed. That’s not necessarily  your fault—many of us have become doomscrollers, even if we never intended to.

Let’s break this down so we can replace those draining activities with a new focus.  

Social and Other Media Consumption

Roxane Cohen Silver studied the effects of media coverage during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. More than 1,770 American adults completed an online survey one to three weeks after the attacks. The survey asked how much TV news (remember that was our primary source for news in those days) they watched and about their mental and physical health.  

Silver then followed up with these participants, giving them similar assessments for the following three years.

Results showed that TV exposure at the time of the attack was associated with symptoms of post-traumatic stress even two or three years afterward. And you didn’t have to live near where the attacks occurred, says Judith Andersen, a health psychologist at the University of Toronto who collaborated with Silver on the study. “It was dependent on how much media you consumed.” 

All of this is compounded by your technology. All of the digital information you’re gathering, from your internet searches to your social media interactions, are ruled by complex algorithms that provide more of the same.  

Let’s break this down so we can replace those draining activities with a new focus.  

Social and Other Media Consumption

Roxane Cohen Silver studied the effects of media coverage during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. More than 1,770 American adults completed an online survey one to three weeks after the attacks. The survey asked how much TV news (remember that was our primary source for news in those days) they watched and about their mental and physical health.  

Silver then followed up with these participants, giving them similar assessments for the following three years.

Results showed that TV exposure at the time of the attack was associated with symptoms of post-traumatic stress even two or three years afterward. And you didn’t have to live near where the attacks occurred, says Judith Andersen, a health psychologist at the University of Toronto who collaborated with Silver on the study. “It was dependent on how much media you consumed.” 

All of this is compounded by your technology. All of the digital information you’re gathering, from your internet searches to your social media interactions, are ruled by complex algorithms that provide more of the same.  

Breaking the Habit

Asking yourself the following questions can help you break the cycle.

  • Is this relevant and useful information—or am I just “rubber-necking” at an accident site?
  • How does this make me feel?
  • Is this interfering with other things I’d rather be doing?
  • Is this causing me problems like becoming angry or unpleasant to be around?
  • Am I actually investigating the information to make sure it’s true before I let my emotions carry me away?
  • Am I investigating the truth of the information before I share it?

Don’t dwell on the negative things in life, but instead think about how much better your life can be when you’re prepared to take action.

Other resources

 The Mental Resilience Training Group on the American Contingency members site is a good resource, along with an article published in July, Gearing Down, which provides very effective steps to a healthy mindset. Join American Contingency today to get access to this and many other member benefits.

SPREAD THE LOVE!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *