Checking your Facebook or Twitter feed for hours may seem like a good way to clear your mind off work and other responsibilities in life. However, depending on what is popping up on your feed, that may take a toll on your mental health in the long run. And there is a word for that — doomscrolling. 

Now a popular word on Merriam-Webster’s “Words We’re Watching” list since the coronavirus pandemic came, doomscrolling, also called doomsurfing, is defined by the dictionary as “the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing.” 

Why Are People Doomscrolling?

New Jersey-based licensed psychoanalyst Babita Spinelli told health and wellness website mindbodygreen that people turn to social media for information during times of stress and that doomscrolling has become a “coping mechanism” that deals with the uncertainty of today’s world. 

According to Spinelli, doomscrolling seemed to be heightened by the pandemic for the following reasons: Staying updated with the latest COVID-19 news is important and so is staying connected with family and friends during quarantine. 

However, fueled by news about police brutality, oppression and racial injustice following the death of George Floyd, some worry about not doomscrolling at all, especially with a lot of information sources about combating racism now available. Spinelli explained that they worry if they are not constantly in the news, they are “turning the other cheek.” Still, spending too much of your time watching and reading news and not taking care of yourself can make it hard to take real, decisive action.

Effects Of Doomscrolling On Mental Health 

Spinelli said that many people turn to the news not to get an idea of what is happening out there, but because information is not always given in its entirety and with no clear answer always in sight, they end up feeling frustrated, fearful, helpless or angry. 

She then added that doomscrolling can also create symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder in extreme cases. “The kind of graphic violence shown on social media can elicit trauma, and from my view, this can be detrimental to mental health if it continues to be the fabric of one’s day,” Spinelli explained.

How To Avoid Doomscrolling

With COVID-19 and racism now affecting communities — particularly black, indigenous and person of color (BIPOC) communities — across America, it is becoming increasingly hard to distinguish between staying informed and doomscrolling. Fortunately, Spinelli found other ways to ensure that you stay aware of current issues without compromising your mental health. “Being aware, educated, and contributing in your own way to combat racial and social injustice is undoubtedly important,” Spinelli told mindbodygreen. “However, we need to utilize other mechanisms to do so rather than excessive doomscrolling.”

Here are her suggested tips:

  • Rather than aimlessly scroll through social media, read newsletters, magazines or newspapers that you receive via email or snail mail. Once you found at least a couple of platforms and news sources, minimize your time spent on other sites. 
  • To be well-informed on current issues, participate in Zoom meetings with like-minded friends. 
  • In place of doomscrolling, you can listen to podcasts or read books about racial and social injustice as part of your daily routine.
  • Spend time, physically or virtually, volunteering at organizations that support and fight for racial justice. Alternatively, you can raise awareness in your workplace. 
  • Support black-owned businesses, black artists, authors, musicians, spiritual leaders, nutritionists, chefs and fitness instructors.

Social Media Researchers continue to conduct studies to explore the benefits and negative effects of spending time on social media. Pixabay