THE SCROLL TO DOOM
Written by Prerna Kherajani, MBBS Intern, LTMMC,Sion.
It’s 11:33pm. It’s still refreshing. There’s more to come…
It’s 3:03am, but the pattern hasn’t changed. Everything is still the same. Its everywhere! Twitter, Instagram, Facebook… scrolling up, scrolling down, it all just seems to get worse!
The internet has made the world a small place, with everyone having access to information about events going on across the globe. While this helped us grow, develop and increase the span of our knowledge; the news and information that we receive here may also deter our mental health.
In the COVID 19 Pandemic, with the world being shut down and everyone maintaining social distancing, social media overcame that distance. With extra time to spare and the abundance of distressing news available to us at the click of a button, we were hit by another pandemic of Mental Health Disorders, a lot of them attributable to Doomscrolling.
Doomscrolling is defined as the tendency to “continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening or depressing”. It leads to the development of a vicious cycle in which, rather than tuning out, people become drawn further in, obsessing over the news and checking for updates around the clock to alleviate their emotional distress. This is so consuming, that the more they check the news, the more they are sucked into this vortex.
The Ukraine War, the Roe vs Wade judgement, Amazon Forest fires The list is endless! While normally most readers can comfortably receive news updates without any tangible psychological effects, some demonstrate a more compulsive obsession with the media. A study, published in the journal Health Communication, found 16.5% of about 1,100 people surveyed showed signs of “severely problematic” news consumption, leading to greater levels stress, anxiety and poor health. It could lead to a constant state of high alert in these people.
Apart from events having a great impact on the world, even the mention and videos related to occasional adversities can be distressing to some individuals and can lead to the development of phobias.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is basically a Twitter feed of worries in your head – Jane Wu.
However, doomscrolling isn’t really a new human behavior. Though the term seems to have entered the Oxford dictionary in early 2020 around the start of Covid-19 lockdowns, the public has long held the “can’t-look-away-from-a-car-crash mentality” that originated with watching the 11 o’clock news.
“Why do I go on scrolling even though I know it’s bad for me?” There are multiple reasons why the urge to read may be so strong: the feeling of safety in knowledge, especially during difficult times; the design of social-media platforms that constantly refresh and boost the loudest voices; and, of course, the human fascination aspect. Just like not being able to look away from from car crash…
“So how do I put a stop to it?”
Dr. Kate Mannell, a media studies researcher at Deakin University suggested a coping mechanism by the way of ” Partial Avoidance”. Here, people weren’t avoiding the news completely, but were taking conscious steps to limit their news consumption after realizing that it had become unhealthy.
Another concept called “Hopescrolling/ Joyscrolling” also came to light where people saw more positive news juxtaposed to the darker ones. This can’t completely erase the effects of the months of Doomscrolling on our mental health, but it helps create self awareness of our reactions to the information that we receive on the internet.
Setting a time limit on the social media activity, avoiding social media, practicing gratitude are some ways to cope with the Compulsion of Doomscrolling.
In the end, we have to remember, The Bad news is, that Nothing lasts forever. And the Good news is, Nothing lasts forever…