What is “Doomscrolling” and How Does it Affect Mental Health?

By February 1, 2021Mental Health, Recovery

Doomscrolling is a term that has become popular with the rise in accessibility to constant online media. The term describes the act of endlessly scrolling down one’s apps, such as through social media and news, producing negative feelings from overexposure to pessimistic content. A constant diet of negative information may fuel symptoms of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, which can result in unhealthy coping mechanisms to alleviate these feelings. 

Additionally, how people choose to present themselves online can induce frequent social comparisons that may impact our wellbeing. With this in mind, it is important to question how exactly this is affecting our mental health and how much information at once is too much? It is essential to self-assess what our limits are, gauging the honest extent of our abilities. When we become exhausted, burnt out, and find it interfering with the kind of person we want to be in the world, then taking a break or limiting our exposure to this kind of content may promote mental health. 

Social Media and Mental Health

Over the past decade, online social networking has changed the way people interact, communicate, and stay informed. Whether for business purposes or personal use, online networking has brought many advantages to connectivity, learning, and sharing ideas. While the conversation regarding the benefits and drawbacks of social media is on-going, studies, such as Online Social Networking and Mental Health,” suggest that prolonged use of social networking sites (SNS) may be related to signs and symptoms of depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety. This study also addresses previous research that suggests there are positive impacts on self-esteem and social networking. While the way we interact online may impact each individual differently, how we choose to use social media, how frequently we use it, and what we choose to engage with can influence our mental health and wellbeing. 

How Much is Too Much?

Sometimes, being online may feel like wading through a ceaseless stream of bad news and it can be hard to find or focus on the positive things happening. We may be drawn to “doomscrolling” because we desire to make sense of what is happening and to stay informed. While difficult topics and problems deserve attention, sometimes we may become so consumed by what is going wrong, it can keep us from seeing what is right. News that unfolds quickly captures our attention. News that unfolds quickly is more likely to be bad than good because it is easy for something to go wrong very quickly, and for something to go right, it usually happens over time. This has powerful implications on our mental health and can make it challenging to notice the things that are going well. Therefore, looking inward and noticing how our personal use of social networking sites impacts us individually can help us find the right balance. Without this self-reflection, we may find it challenging to cope with these negative emotions in a healthy way. 

It is up to you to realize when the constant onslaught of media is adversely affecting your wellbeing and when it starts take a toll on other things in your life. You may stop and ask yourself next time you are scrolling through the media:

  • How is this making me feel?
  • How is this affecting my day?
  • Are my activities reflecting my goals?
  • Is this impacting my relationships?
  • Am I comparing myself to others?
  • Is what I am looking at adding to my happiness?
  • Have I surpassed my mental capacity for bad news?

It is essential to check up on ourselves at various times throughout the day to see how we are doing. Sometimes, giving yourself objective ways to check your progress and wellbeing is by asking:

  • Was I able to get out of bed today?
  • Did I manage to accomplish what I intended on getting done?
  • Did I make time for self-care?
  • Was I able to do something I enjoyed today?
  • Did I have a meaningful interaction/connection with someone today?

If we answer “no” more often than not, the time we spend on social networking sites is negatively impacting these things and it might be a sign to make some changes. If you feel exhausted and burnt out, you may want to consider cutting back and creating boundaries or limits to social media use. You can do this by setting a timer for 5-15 minutes when you want to check updates.This way, you can stay informed and let go before you start feeling overwhelmed. 

Listening to our bodies and emotions is crucial in gauging how much time online is too much. When we slow down and take time to listen, our bodies and minds can tell us when we have absorbed too much negative news or media. While staying informed is important, and giving attention to the difficult things in life is necessary for growth, focusing too much on social media without considering the positives can be detrimental. This may lead to mental health concerns or self-medicating to alleviate negative feelings. At Alta Centers, we understand the importance of finding a balance between your mental health and a community environment. We provide premier treatment in the Hollywood hills, where you can focus on recovery while staying close to the city. We offer the opportunity to follow dreams, goals, and aspirations while developing who you are in recovery. For more information, call us today at (888) 202-2583

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