Doom scrolling 

Doom scrolling or doom surfing is spending a lot of screen time devoted to the reading and absorbing negative news.  Consumption of predominantly negative news can result in poor mental health such as depression, despair and anxiety.  

It is in many ways a modern version of the Mean World Syndrome. Coined by Professor George Gerbner (Temple University, Villanova University and the University of Pennsylvania) in the 1970s, viewers who are exposed to violence-related content can experience increased fear, anxiety, pessimism and heightened state of alert in response to perceived threats.

With doom scrolling, seeing or reading upsetting news leads people to seek out more information on the subject or related topics, thus, creating a self-perpetuating cycle. And sadly, there has been a lot of upsetting news recently – the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter protests, the US election crises of 2020 and 2021, Climate change, the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, cost of living crisis, energy bills rising and associated job insecurity.

I wrote recently about the nature of memory and how this can create a negativity bias. Essentially, you remember and retain bad news, as it can include important information and lessons. But good news, which does not include usually lessons, is often forgotten.  

Social media algorithms use the content users view and search for to display posts similar in nature, which can facilitate doom scrolling. Being aware of this and realising you are doom scrolling is an important skill to develop. As Sanam Saeed (Pakistani Actress, Singer and former model) said “We need to start identifying the triggers that aggravate mental health issues in our society – bullying, social media negativity and anxiety, gender based violence, substance abuse, stigma around issues such as maternal issues, etc., and we need to speak up about these more and get to the source of the problems”.

Health professionals have observed that doom scrolling will negatively impact existing mental health issues. While the impact that it has may vary from person to person, studies have revealed a connection between frequent consumption of bad news with higher levels of anxiety, depression, stress, and even symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Raheem DeVaughn (American singer and songwriter) put the problem quite well when he said, “Whenever I am faced with someone spreading negativity in my relationship, I remember the old saying, ‘Misery loves company.’ I am also reminded to be mindful of the company you keep. Sometimes you cannot see a hater until you are happy. It is then that they demonstrate their negativity”.

So, what can you do? Well, limiting the amount of time you spend reading about an issue can help. If you are looking for information about a particular issue or new story, once you have that information, stop and do something else. Other tips include having social media breaks or limiting the amount of time you spend on it. Also, consider getting out of your head for a while and perhaps spend some time in nature, reading a book or just doing something you will enjoy. A little self-love can go a long way.

Hypnotherapy can help with break unwanted habits and routines as well as help to support good mental health. So, if you think it could help you, then contact me.

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