Exposing the damage of excessive reading on negative news. Know the effects on your mental health by reading the Dangers of Doomscrolling.
What is Doomscrolling?
What comes to mind when you hear the word doomscrolling? Perhaps you think it is an invented virtual game, or maybe it is a psychological term? Doomscrolling was hardly used until last year, so do not feel like you are trapped in a generation-time warp.
Doomscrolling is a person’s ongoing need to read through negative news on the internet. Even if it is sad or can cause depression, the reading continues. In simple terms, it is craving to read updates filled with distressing reports woven into a narrative form of dystopia.
Oftentimes, the storyline is about a declining community. The antagonists control all aspects of the modern world, while the few protagonists survive through a brutal system. The readers get hooked on predictions of disaster. It is a disheartening collapse of society.
Doomscrolling was previously used in a 2018 tweet by a finance reporter. But the word grew from obscure infancy to a giant urban term when Covid started. It was an often-used word in 2020 during the protests of Black Lives Matter and the US Presidential Elections.
Why do People Engage in Doomscrolling?
Do you wonder why anyone would immerse themselves in this kind of daily reading? Do they know that this material can affect their mental health?
Believe it or not, your brain is attracted to negative news because it is a defense mechanism to harm. The human brain is hardwired to news that will prepare itself for any surprises and avoid them at all costs. The saying knowledge is power comes to mind, justifying doom scrolling.
Bad news travels fast, with Covid as the main topic. It has become a welcome form of entertainment that keeps people involved. This is similar to neighborhood gossip that everyone is whispering about. But instead of face-to-face tattle, it comes from the smartphone messages or computer posts that pass news faster than the speed of light.
When a person shares a post with friends and family, it gives them a sense of purpose. It is a warning bell to loved ones, so they can prepare for the necessary measures to survive. Whether the news is verified or fact-checked is irrelevant because of the noble intention of keeping others updated about what you read.
Do you remember when you were younger and followed the alpha leader of the pack? In this case, it is social media and news posts that influence conversations and thought patterns. People accept information based on the rationale that it can not be wrong if the majority thinks the same. It is a form of virtual peer pressure when the readers agree to an opinion without testing facts.
Doom Scrolling Can Harm You
We live in evolving times and are bombarded with news that overemphasizes the negatives instead of highlighting the positives. Any form of news that is peppered with intrigue and salted with a fearless forecast, makes the best recipe for a juicy steak that you can’t resist devouring. The same happens when you take in negative news, the craving to read has become an appetite hard to satiate.
At the start, you think it is simply reading updates until you come across conspiracy newsfeeds. This is where it gets tricky and dangerous because you become riveted in the plot’s alleged characters and predictive outcomes. But how much bad news can you absorb until you realize you are in a mental state of anxiety, alarm, or panic? The downward spiral into mental illness has set in.
A clear sign of growing addiction is the urgent need to look for updates. You are aware that the material is about doom and gloom, but you can not stop reading. It intensifies your negative reaction to the news, but you give in and read it anyway.
There is an exciting urge to read more bad news that you can not explain. Just like watching a thriller, you want to know what comes next and will search through updates from other sites. Not knowing what unfolds next is like waiting for the next episode in an ongoing soap opera.
The satire quoted as fact, conspiracy theory without standard evidence, or developing news produce stories that leave the reader in a perpetual cliffhanger. This heightens your sense of fear because of unknown solutions or imminent harm. Reading a story without a finale or an ending will keep you hooked, but will also affect your mental pulse.
You start to feel nervous about the latest updates and become agitated. The intensified frustration has reached its peak levels, but you have no control over it. In your quest to warn others about the so-called dangers, you start sending warning messages and article links through social media or email. Without meaning to, you just dumped your fear issues on other people.
When you are alerted with ongoing news updates from the moment you wake up until you sleep, you are involved with the unfolding story. You start to withdraw from daily routines and stare at your smartphone or computer screen for hours at a time. You find that any activity that compromises your attention to the news is a disturbance to your doomscrolling activity.
Furthermore, you do not realize that your nerves are frayed, and your mood swings are a pendulum of emotions. With constant absorption of bleak news, there is no imminent solution to the problems. You have fallen into the doom trap when you start to feel hopeless.
Beware of Social Media Messages
Doomscrolling is a mindless habit when people are not aware of the fear factor and continue reading without regard to the time. Having a smartphone has become a source of bombardment and does not help you avoid newsfeeds. If you read your phone as soon as you wake up, you are exposed to a barrage of sensationalized reports and social media posts.
Social media platforms have made communicating with family and friends easier. Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Twitter, and many others are a source of receiving updates. But instant messages are not always an advantage, and more often than not, it puts pressure on yourself to pass what you just read to update others.
A simple tap in the smartphone to forward a link or a copy-pasted report tempts you to be negligent in fact-checking the post. But when you skip the verifying exercise, you remain clueless about the accuracy of the newsfeed. The cycle of an unverified article is activated, and you may have just participated in circulating fake news.
A person is spared from an emotional roller coaster if the news is regarded as an informational exercise. You save yourself the effort of garbage in and garbage out from doomscrolling. You can digest straight facts, not a buffet of semi-truths to suit a conclusion, and leave you in a toxic state.
When you come across a post, try to find the silver lining in the news. While the pandemic goes on, challenge yourself to see the promising side of a situation. Put things in proper perspective and know when to archive what you read to avoid marathon reading.
Now that you know what doomscrolling can do, take the bold step to stop the bad habit. Choose to celebrate the good and do your part in creating a positive mindset.
© 2021 Marissa ST
Marissa ST (author) from Davao City, Philippines on August 30, 2021:
You may want to read my other article- "7 Ways to Avoid Doomscrolling Now". Again, coming from the voice of experience.
Hope you have a pleasant day.
Marissa ST (author) from Davao City, Philippines on August 30, 2021:
Thank you for your comment Janis. I went through it and had to stop- cold turkey. I hope it helps others because we need a bit of hope every day.
Janis Leslie Evans from Washington, DC on August 29, 2021:
Excellent article. Thank you for explaining doom scrolling. It it definitely a real thing, especially amidst COVID. I recognize it to an extent as a news junky myself with a "need to know" mindset. This is very informative and could be helpful to those who have gone to the "sunken place" of obsessive scrolling that has impacted their mood and mental state. Good job.