Are You Doomscrolling?
Doomscrolling is a word I’d never heard of until a few days ago.
But, if you’re doing it, there’s little doubt that it can have negative effects on your health.
So to piggyback off of the article I wrote last week about ways to promote good health during the holidays, I figured I’d write an article on it and help you realize that our behavior, even something as seemingly normal like being on our phones, can have seriously dramatic effects.
So, what is doomscrolling, and who gets credit for making up this new word?
Well, I don’t know the answer to this second question, but to answer the first, let’s turn to Urban Dictionary.
According to them, doomscrolling is “When you keep scrolling through all of your social media feeds, looking for the most recent upsetting news about the latest catastrophe. The amount of time spent doing this is directly proportional to how much worse you're going to feel after you're done.”.
Basically doomscrolling is gluing your eyes to your phone in the attempt to learn more about bad events… and in the process… getting more upset the longer you go.
The fact that so much information is available to us…
And that almost all of it is suspect, because of our predisposition to believe or not believe the sources of the information…
Is what makes doomscrolling that much worse.
30 years ago, no one had to worry about the wealth of information at their fingertips.
And you better believe no one had to worry about what they were reading or watching was “fake news”.
But now, that’s a major concern for us, regardless of what side of the political aisle we’re on.
Medical Professionals Warn Doomscrolling Could Seriously Harm You
Ariane Ling, PhD, who serves as a psychologist and clinical assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at NYU Langone Health in New York said that the lockdowns and the anxiety around coronavirus has made doomscrolling a full-fledged ordeal.
“The pandemic has exacerbated these habits [endlessly scrolling looking for more bad news] in many ways, including the fact that there is no shortage of doomsday news,” she said.
“Additionally, in the efforts to make information accessible to all, many major news resources like the [New York Times] are offering coverage of COVID for free,” Ling told Healthline. “This creates both less barriers to being informed, but it also adds to the abundance of doomsday headlines out there.“
Since the start of the pandemic, people’s fixation on getting all the news they can from social media has spiked.
Which makes sense…
People are out of work, or stuck at home, so they have little else to do.
Twitter, the mother of all newsclip sites, says user’s time on site (or in the app) has jumped 24 percent since February.
And Facebook’s use has risen even higher, with an increase of 27 percent, data analysis shows.
Why do we do it?
Well, aside from the fact that social media companies are working endlessly to manipulate our behavior and keep us on their platforms for longer than is healthy…
There’s also the fact that it kind of feeds into our body’s basic survival hardwiring.
Dr. Patricia Celan, a psychiatry resident at Dalhousie University in Canada, said in an interview with Healthline, that this comes from an ancient encoding.
“This is an evolutionary habit,” she said, “... we like to familiarize ourselves with dangers in order to gain a sense of preparedness and control.”
“Unfortunately, doomscrolling has worsened during the pandemic because people are hypervigilant for danger and are more likely to seek information in hopes of finding a way to control the problem,” she explained.
I’m not here to argue about evolution, just so you’re aware.
But, on the basis of a biological explanation for why doomscrolling is a thing, this makes sense. We’re designed to look out for danger, and doomscrolling is the modern day version of maintaining watch over your home knowing someone might come in and rob you.
Experts in psychology warn that doomscrolling really could interfere with your wellbeing.
The Very Real Dangers Of Doomscrolling
So, wondering just how bad doomscrolling could be for you?
Dr. Carla Marie Manly, who is both a clinical psychologist as well as the author of “Joy from Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend,” said in an interview:
“In the long term, doomscrolling can increase levels of cortisol and adrenaline, both of which are stress hormones. Research routinely shows that chronic levels of elevated stress hormones are associated with many physical health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity,” she said.
“Given that mental health is connected to physical health, it’s no surprise that negative habits such as doomscrolling negatively affect the physical body, from interfering with sleep to creating a craving for comfort food and overeating,” Manly said.
And Dr. Leela R. Magavi, a psychiatrist and regional medical director at Community Psychiatry, a psychiatric care network based in California, mentioned that:
“Many individuals experience cognitive distortions such as catastrophizing, and doomscrolling could lead to an increase in ruminative thinking and panic attacks,”
She went on to say “A vicious feedback loop draws people back to news and scrolling yet again. This transient assurance gained by reading the news worsens anxiety over time.”
This is confirmed by many other professionals in this line of work.
And I know, as an MD, that if you flood your body full of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline for hours on end, that it’s only going to spell trouble for hormonal balance and your immune health.
Living in fear like that, especially as it relates to the coronavirus, may actually make you even more susceptible to the very thing you’re attempting to avoid!
How to Fight the Dangers of Doomscrolling
Doomscrolling doesn’t only take place on a phone, I’d argue.
It’s just easier on a phone.
You can do the same damage to yourself on a TV, or even the newspaper.
That being said, the best way to fight this danger is to just cut out the amount of time you spend on devices, or fixated on the news.
I’d argue that if you did that, and your neighbor did that, and the whole nation did that, everything would get better.
Here’s a decent article to help you stop using social media, and to quit doomscrolling today.