Media Use and the Pandemic
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: media use is not always good for you. Now we have the pandemic-related phenomenon of “doomscrolling”, going obsessively through your feeds again and again, reading the bad news and skipping the good.
Why do that? Well, 2020 has put a lot of stress on everyone. From Covid to wildfires to hurricanes to a long-delayed reckoning on racial justice, we have a lot on our minds nowadays. Many people are in a pretty much constant “fight or flight” mode, which wears the body and mind out fast.
Doomscrolling is a response to stress that basically looks for more reasons to be stressed. If you can’t leave your phone aside for even an hour of offline activity, or you find yourself unable to go to sleep no matter how late it gets because there might be just one more report you need to look at, you are doomscrolling.
How does online media affect users?
While there is certainly evidence that online media can help people maintain connections and communication, even when isolated physically, there are also plenty of negative effects apparent. For some, doomscrolling can become an addiction, making you believe you have a need to keep on looking obsessively for more bad news. For people who already may be having problems with depression or other negative moods, doomscrolling can reinforce a downward spiral into deeper depression.
So much of the news is negative, and constantly scanning it can lead to “catastrophizing” or believing that one’s chances of survival are much worse than, in reality, they are. Doomscrolling can also increase anxiety and potentially lead to panic attacks, or to ruminating: going over and over the same negative thoughts without a way to break out of the cycle.
How to break the doomscrolling cycle
What can you do if you find yourself obsessively doomscrolling? First of all, affirm to yourself that you are in charge. Neither the media nor the devices can make you look if you decide you don’t need to. Decide for yourself how much news you need each day (hint: think about how much news you thought you needed back before there was an internet). Decide for yourself what times of day are the best for you to be following the news, and always remember to give yourself an electronics-free hour before bedtime.
Remember, there really isn’t anything happening in the world that can’t wait a few hours for you to find out about it. You aren’t missing out if you aren’t the first person in your network to know the “breaking” news. Take time to watch a comedy show, listen to music, or just write longer, supportive emails to friends and family members. Do frequent reality checks in your own neighborhood or in your and your friends’ lived experience, which is usually not as apocalyptic as may be shown on the screen. Decide how you will use the media and tools you have available to you and don’t let them dictate differently. Share in the comments below if you have any other coping strategies that work for you.
Healthline. ‘Doomscrolling’ During COVID-19: What It Does to You and How You Can Avoid It. Accessed October 13, 2020.
Wired. Doomscrolling is slowly eroding your mental health. Accessed October 13, 2020.