Doom scrolling can be a normal response to life in uncertain times.
It is normal to want to understand dramatic events around you and seek information if you’re scared. But getting too caught up in bad news can be harmful.
A newly published study has found that people with high levels of problematic news consumption are also more likely to have poorer mental and physical health. So what can you do about it?
We spoke to Australians in the state of Victoria talk about their lengthy lockdown experiences and found out how to stop doom scrolling. Here are some tips to help you do the same.
Doom scrolling – useless and harmful
“Doom scrolling” describes what happens when someone continues to consume negative news and information online, including on social media. There is mounting evidence that this kind of overconsumption of bad news can have negative consequences.
Research suggests that doom scrolling during crises is useless and even harmful. Consuming a lot of news during the early COVID-19 pandemic made people feel overwhelmed. a study found that people who consumed more news about the pandemic were also more anxious about it.
I understand why so many people are doing doom scrolling now. Try to focus on the things you can do to help, reporting from the trusted news organizations and also limit your time on social media.
— Doomscrolling Reminder bot (@doomscroll_bot) September 7, 2022
Opt for control
During the peak of the spread of COVID-19, many were doom scrolling. There was a lot of bad news and a lot more free time for many people. Several studies, including our own, have shown that limiting exposure to news helped people cope.
Melbourne, the capital of the state of Victoria, has some of the longest running lockdowns in the world. Wanting to find out how Victorians interacted with their news consumption today, we launched a survey and interviewed people who were limiting news consumption for their own good.
We found that many people increased their news consumption when the lockdowns started. However, most of our participants gradually introduced strategies to curb their doom scrolling, realizing that it made them anxious or angry and distracted from everyday tasks.
Our research found that these news reduction strategies were highly beneficial. People reported feeling less stressed and found it easier to connect with others. Here are some of their strategies you may want to try.
1. Make a regular time to check news
Instead of checking the news regularly throughout the day, set aside a specific time and consider what time of day will have the most positive impact for you.
A participant would check the news while waiting for her cup of tea to be brewed in the morning, as this put a time limit on her scrolling. Other participants preferred to save their news engagement for later in the day so they could start their morning calm and focused.
2. Prevent news from being ‘pushed’ at you
If you come across unexpected news, you can find yourself in a doomscrolling spiral. Several participants succeeded in this by avoiding news being “pushed” at them, allowing them to respond on their own terms instead. Examples include unfollowing news-related social media accounts or disabling push notifications for news and social media apps.
3. Add ‘friction’ to break the habit
If you find yourself consuming news in a mindless or ordinary way, making it slightly more difficult to access news can give you an opportunity to pause and think.
One participant moved all of her social media and news apps to a folder she hid on the last page of her smartphone’s home screen. She told us that this strategy helped her significantly reduce doom scrolling. Other participants removed browser bookmarks with shortcuts to news sites, removed news and social media apps from their phones, and stopped taking their phones to their bedrooms at night.
4. Talk to others in your household
If you’re trying to better manage your news consumption, tell other people in your household so they can support you. Many of our participants found it difficult to limit their consumption when other household members watched, listened or talked about a lot of news.
In the best cases, having a conversation helped people come to common understandings, even if one person found the news comforting and the other disturbing. A couple in our study agreed that one of them would watch the afternoon news while the other would go for a walk, but they would watch the evening news together.
hello, are you doom scrolling? How about another activity that brings you joy, reading a book or going to sleep early tonight? You still deserve time to rest and recover.
— Doomscrolling Reminder bot (@doomscroll_bot) September 5, 2022
Staying informed is still important
Crucially, none of these practices involve avoiding news altogether. Staying informed is important, especially in crisis situations where you need to know how to stay safe. Our research shows there are ways to balance the need to stay informed with the need to protect your well-being.
So if your news consumption has become problematic, or you find yourself in a crisis situation where negative news can become overwhelming, these strategies can help you strike that balance. This will remain a major challenge as we continue to navigate an unstable world.