It’s no secret that scrolling through social media can be a huge time suck.
Doomscrolling, a term used to describe the act of mindlessly scrolling through bad news on social media, has become a part of our daily lives.
And while it can be a way to stay informed, it can also take a toll on our mental health, often to the point of anxiety or depression.
How It Works
Doomscrolling usually happens when we’re bored, anxious, or lonely. We scroll through our social media and news feeds, looking for anything to distract us from our current emotional state.
The problem is, all too often, what we find is more negative news and content that only serves to make us feel worse.
While you might think it only affects other people, here’s a newsflash – it’s probably taking a toll on you as well.
Physical Effects of Doomscrolling
Here’s a scary factoid. The average American spends more than seven hours daily looking at screens. The linked article from Comparitech is interesting reading, especially when it comes to the consequences on your body. To dig a little deeper into that idea, consider the results of another study that determined that 30% of adults are consistently online.
You probably know these kinds of people. You might even be one. Your phone is always within arm’s reach and stays beside you on the bedstand at night. You wake up throughout the time you should be sleeping to check each notification beep. That, my friends, is a problem.
This act of daily, intensive doomscrolling can have a variety of physical effects.
Headaches and Eye Strain
Spending too much time looking at screens can lead to headaches and eye strain. This is a result of our eyes constantly being forced to readjust to the different levels of light coming from the screen or even different screens if you’re switching between a phone, laptop, or even a smart television.
Neck and Back Pain
If you’ve ever gotten a crick in your neck from looking down at your phone, you know that poor posture leads to pain. This is especially true if you’re one of those poor souls who simply can’t get enough of doomscrolling.
In addition to neck and back pain, poor posture can also cause headaches, fatigue, and even migraines.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The act of constant scrolling over a long period of time puts an incredible strain on your wrists and hands. Our bodies were built for a lot of things but not this. This can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands and wrists. Surgery is often required to correct it.
Repetitive Strain Injury
This is a type of injury that occurs when the muscles, tendons, and nerves in the hands and arms are overused. Symptoms of RSI include pain, swelling, numbness, and tingling in the affected area.
While several different activities can cause RSI, doomscrolling is a major contributor.
Reduced Physical Activity Levels
Obviously, when we’re doomscrolling, we’re not doing much else. This eliminates the getting up and moving around that used to offset time spent in a chair in front of a computer.
This can lead to all kinds of health problems, including weight gain, reduced muscle mass, and decreased bone density. It doesn’t sound like a recipe for good health and a long life to us.
How It Affects Mental Health
Doomscrolling can have a severe impact on our mental health.
Insomnia or Poor Sleep Quality: Doomscrolling can lead to insomnia or poor sleep quality due to the blue light exposure and the stimulating effect of the content. People deprived of sleep are more likely to make errors, have accidents, and experience problems with their physical and mental health.
Anxiety and Depression: Scrolling through negative news can cause or exacerbate anxiety and depression. Constantly being exposed to negative information is a great way to make yourself feel like the world is a dark and scary place. Even if it is, there’s no benefit to knowing all the details.
The problem is you start to believe that bad things are happening more often whether they are or not, which is a short trip to feeling overly anxious and paranoid.
Doomscrolling has been known to trigger or worsen depression by causing us to compare our lives to the “perfect people” we see on social media highlight reels. If you like feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and worthlessness, this is a great way to achieve them.
Loss of Productivity: Here’s a big one. We’re talking about the loss of productivity and not just at work. When we’re doomscrolling, we’re not focused on the task at hand, whether that’s work, school, or taking care of our families. More time on phones and computers means less time plugged into our real world obligations. And then you wonder why you don’t get things done anymore?
Addictive Behaviors: Doomscrolling can be a great way to develop a destructive addiction. Some people numb themselves alcohol and drugs. Now you can use social media as well. Do you ever find yourself hanging out on your device, not really doing or looking for anything specific? You might as well be snorting a line of cocaine off the coffee table. Maybe that’s a bit severe of a comparison but there is a point to be made. Addiction is addiction.
Of course, addictions, including doomscrolling, are rarely a good thing that lead to a happy, fulfilled life. In fact, they are more likely to make you feel even more isolated and lonely than before.
Changes in Cognition: This one should scare you. It has been indicated that doomscrolling can lead to actual physical changes in your cognitive abilities. Some studies show that people who frequently use (abuse) social media are more likely to have attention deficit and problems with memory recall.
How to Limit Doomscrolling
If you think you have a problem with doomscrolling and it’s enough to negatively impact your mental health, there are a few things you can do to combat it.
Set a time limit: One of the simplest things you can do is set a time limit for yourself. Decide how long you want to spend on social media each day, and then stick to it. You can use apps to help you track your screen time and even shut down certain apps if you exceed them.
Take breaks: Instead of scrolling through your feed mindlessly, take breaks throughout the day. Get up and move around, take a few deep breaths, or do something else to help you relax.
Hide notifications: Another way to limit doomscrolling is to hide notifications from social media apps. That way, you won’t be as tempted to pick up your phone every time you get a new message.
Find other ways to relax: Instead of using social media as a way to relax, find other activities that you enjoy. This could be reading, going for a walk, listening to music, or anything else that helps you unwind.
Follow positive accounts and unfollow negative accounts: Another tip is to be intentional about the accounts that you follow. Follow accounts that make you feel good and unfollow those that make you feel anxious or stressed.
Talk to someone: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk to a friend or family member. Sometimes it can help to talk to a real person about what’s going on in your life and how you’re feeling.
Seek professional help: If you’re struggling to cope with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, seek professional help. A therapist can help you develop coping mechanisms and work through the problems you’re facing.
It’s a pretty sure bet that social media is not going away any time soon, so you need to develop a healthy relationship with it. Following the tips above can help limit the amount of time you spend doomscrolling and return you to a more balanced life in the process.