Not everyone is born to be a full-time content creator, but these days it’s rare to meet someone who isn’t a user on at least one social platform. Twitter’s transition into X caused it to lose millions of users and the fate of TikTok in America is still up in the air, yet still, people around the world rely on apps like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube to get their news, connect with loved ones and express their own feelings. The positives are great – but what about the negative aspects of social media, such as doomscrolling?

We have access to more information than ever before at the tips of our fingers, and all day, notifications bring us updates that can send your nervous system on an unpleasant rollercoaster ride. If we’re not careful, we can become addicted to this cycle which is both mentally and physically damaging. Keep reading to better understand doomscrolling, and what you can do to combat the digital disease plaguing us.

What Is Doomscrolling?

Before you try to break a habit, it’s important to understand the root of what’s got you drawn to that pattern. In the case of doomscrolling, says that many who engage do so as an act of self-soothing amid chaos. “The idea behind [it] is attempting to get access to all the information you need to keep yourself protected from what’s dangerous around you,” the website notes. The act itself is described as “actively seeking out saddening or negative material to read or scroll through on social media or news media outlets.”

With genocide unfolding across the globe, an election impending and the entertainment industry seemingly crumbling, it’s not hard to find concerning headlines these days. “We are all hardwired to see the negative and be drawn to the negative because it can harm us physically,” psychiatrist Ken Yeager, PhD told Health. However, just because you spend hours searching for answers online to help calm your mind doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll feel better in the long run.

The Impacts of Doomscrolling on Your Mental Health

A few minutes of consuming overstimulating content might seem harmless, but overall it heightens feelings of apprehension, anxiety, sadness, anger and uncertainty about the future. “People are drawn to doomscrolling because they feel like they have a sense of being able to control any of that bad news,” Yeager added. “But [it] does not create control and only makes you miserable.

Of the Big 5 personality traits (neuroticism, openness, conscientiousness, extraversion and agreeableness), those with high levels of neuroticism, or “a personality related to emotional instability and being more likely to experience or react to psychological distress” are reportedly most likely to engage in doomscrolling. Those with these tendencies more strongly react to their negative emotions and might get caught in a loop of excessive screen time while reinforcing beliefs about low self-esteem and feelings of sadness.

How To Take Your Power Back From Doomscrolling

Doomscrolling pictured: woman typing on laptop
Photo by Thought Catalog/Unsplash

Realizing how you’ve been keeping yourself stuck in toxic cycles isn’t easy. Still, it’s not impossible and conversing with a therapist or trusted friend about what you’re experiencing is a great first step to taking your power back. It’s important to have compassion for yourself while unlearning patterns that no longer serve you. Once you understand what got you started down that path in the first place, it becomes much easier to make sure you don’t go back.

Recognize That You Alone Are Not Responsible for Saving the World

In these chaotic times, it’s hard not to feel like you’re not doing enough for those who are suffering. It’s undeniably important and empowering to be educated on world events. However, doomscrolling and seething with anger that others aren’t showing up in the same way as you, or losing yourself in your emotions while reading statistics about death tolls and mass tragedies isn’t doing anything to fix the problem. 

Your greatest currency is your energy; make sure you keep that in top form by setting digital boundaries, consuming content that leaves you feeling empowered and researching ways to support those struggling right now without stepping out of your integrity.

Give Microlearning A Try

We live in a fast-paced world and try as they might, many people are unable to meet their personal development goals while pouring most of their time into working to pay bills and survive. Thankfully, tech innovators are taking this problem by storm and creating apps that promote microlearning in the form of minutes-long lessons. Duolingo is a free language learning app that’s been helping people expand their minds and communication skills with ease for years. Another popular option is Nerdish, designed to keep adults up to date on their science, history and fun facts knowledge.

Practice Good Digital Hygiene

If your doomscrolling is getting excessive, try to catch yourself in the act and instead channel your energy into making your phone a more positive space. Clear out your camera roll and organize special memories into a folder you can revisit when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Unsubscribe from emails that no longer align with you and unfollow or mute anyone who might trigger you. There’s no reason you can’t take a break from the online experience entirely, but if you want to stay connected in the digital world, it’s important to treat your phone the same way you would your bedroom.

Counteract Doomscrolling by Expressing Gratitude

When you spend your free time immersing your beautiful mind in bad news, it’s naturally going to seek more of that out. The way to end the relentless cycle is to begin expressing gratitude when you feel yourself slipping back into a bad place. If others are suffering, be gracious for your health and well-being – maybe even make it a point to do something nice for your body, simply because you can.

As Oprah Winfrey once put it, “Appreciating what shows up in your life changes your personal vibration. Gratitude elevates your life to a higher frequency.”