We live on our mobile phones – literally.
We use them for communication, business, and banking. We need them for shopping – both online, but also in traditional shops as all our card information is now on them. We use them for reading daily newspapers, keeping up with the news, watching our latest soap operas, and following our favorite celebrities on social media. We can donate to charities, make appointments, apply for loans, and send messages.
Surely that’s a good thing?
That’s all well and good – our smartphone has managed to radically improve and simplify so much of the normal everyday tasks that used to take time and energy. There is no more need to spend your lunch hour standing in bank queues, or sit on the phone patiently waiting out your place in the queue before you can book an appointment with the doctor.
But there is also a growing bank of evidence that our smartphone is becoming a source of much negative energy and emotional distress.
What is doom scrolling?
Doom scrolling is the act of spending an excessive amount of screen time devoted to the absorption of negative news. Sometimes we do it mindlessly, sifting through the never-ending Twitter feed waiting for something of interest to pop up, but subconsciously absorbing the negative language, catastrophic headlines and clickbait images that throw themselves in front of our eyes.
After major global events, we can become fixated in seeking out every last detail of a story. Covid 19 in particular was a big driver of doom scrolling. The panic that was induced when the world started to shut down led to everyone turning to sources of news and information.
Because the more information we have, the more we BELIEVE that we are in control of a situation, and the better we theoretically fee. Feeling out of control is one of the greatest contributors to anxiety, so we strive to regain that control, even if it is just an illusion.
How does doom scrolling affect our mental health?
Anxiety & insomnia – Often this doom scrolling takes place at night. Insomnia forces us to pick up our phone and scroll our way through those darkest hours. Yet lack of sleep also leads to increased anxiety. So you get caught in this vicious cycle of increasing anxiety, and continuing a behaviour that perpetuates the anxiety.
Depression – when you are having depressed and negative thoughts, you are psychologically more primed to seek out those things that reinforce your thoughts. You are subconsciously seeking a narrative that reinforces how you are feeling.
Triggering stress hormones – doom scrolling triggers the release of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin. The more you continue with the behaviour, the more these hormones are released. You soon find yourself living in a state of high stress, which has a negative impact on both your physical and emotional wellbeing.
Tips to end doom scrolling
- Set a time limit to your phone use – programme in a set start and end time when you allow yourself to check out social media and the various news channels and stick to it religiously.
- Delete the most ‘dangerous’ apps – chances are there are probably three or four apps which you favour over and above others. Delete them. The more difficult it is to access them, the less chance you will have of dipping into them.
- Turn off ALL notifications – or at the very least only keep the essential ones relating to school, work etc. Notifications are a constant reminder of what we might be (supposedly) missing. We don’t need them.
- Take a stroll without the scroll – leave your phone at home for half an hour and walk round the block. Notice how you hold your head high, are more observant to life going on around you. Notice how so many people walk with their heads down, scrolling mindlessly, missing out on the joy of life that surrounds them.