We’re all guilty of it. We get done with work, plop down on the couch and start scrolling. Social media, news sites, entertainment blogs—it’s easy to lose hours scrolling endlessly. Once you think you’re at the bottom, the screen refreshes and there’s more content to see! No, it’s not magic: it’s engineered that way.
This mindless, endless scrolling has a name: doomscrolling. Why? Because most times, when you finally close the app or put your phone down, you feel drained. Scrolling takes an emotional toll on us—especially in 2020. From scary pandemic news to divisive politics, most people feel downright exhausted when they get done scrolling for the day. It’s no wonder there’s a strong, scientifically proven correlation between screen time and depression!
A day in the life of a doomscroller
The worst thing about doomscrolling is that we’re all conditioned to do it. Smartphones are essential and central to most people’s lives, and they’ve radically changed how we behave. Scrolling is something we’re so accustomed to doing that we often don’t even realize we’re doing it or how we got there.
Waiting for something to microwave? Might as well hop on Facebook. Waiting for the bus? It’s easy to open a news app. Can’t fall asleep? Maybe reading Reddit will make you drowsy. Any time we have a spare second, our instinct is to scroll. For most, it’s a bad habit that’s hard to break—for others, it’s a full-blown addiction.
More bad news than ever
Scrolling is generally an exhausting activity because we overload our brains with new content, never giving them a break for as long as we keep scrolling. It’s a practice made even worse when the nature of the content we’re digesting is negative. It’s one thing to scroll through cute pictures of puppies and read inspiring stories of human triumph; it’s another to read negative headline after negative headline.
Consider the scrolling landscape these days. COVID-19 headlines dominate news sites. Clashing opinions and hurtful words are the scourge of social media. Instagram influencers tout things we’ll never have. Frankly, there’s not a lot to scroll through that’ll put a smile on your face—and even if there were, scrolling still takes an emotional toll.
How to break free from doomscrolling
Breaking the habit means admitting that you have a problem. Many people will claim they only spend a few minutes here and there scrolling, but those minutes add up—especially when you consider multitasking, like scrolling while you watch a movie or eat dinner. Time yourself when you scroll or use features like Apple’s Screen Time to assess how much time you spend on your phone daily.
If you’re like most people who don’t realize they have a doomscrolling habit, the amount of time you spend scrolling can come as a shock. In 2019, Americans spent some 6+ hours per day on their phones! Needless to say, it’s time to get the scrolling in-check. Here’s how:
- Set aside time to scroll: Going cold turkey isn’t the answer, and you’re likely to fall off the wagon after just a few days. Instead of giving up social media or cutting your scroll time down to nothing, set aside designated scroll time. 10-30 minutes is recommended a couple of times per day. It’s easier to put a cap on how much time you spend scrolling when you designate specific times to do it.
- Kill the notifications: Notifications are what rope most people into scrolling. To prevent this game of entrapment, disable all but the most important notifications. You don’t need to know that Uncle Bob posted a new status on Facebook. Disabling notifications, combined with isolated scroll times, will put you on the path to more responsible scrolling.
- Minimize social media: Social media is the catalyst for doomscrolling, and it’s usually the place where you’ll find the most divisive content. Social media makes us anxious, angry, envious and a host of other negative emotions—the true definition of doomscrolling. Avoid reading the news and definitely avoid the comment sections on social media. Your self-esteem will thank you—as will your blood pressure.
- Seek out happiness: No matter where you scroll, do your best to seek out positive content from time to time. Check out the r/aww subreddit for a healthy dose of pets and wholesome people. Follow inspirational hashtags on Instagram. Visit motivational blogs and read articles that empower you. While it’s impossible to get away from all the doom and gloom, there are bright spots out there. Seek them out!
Above all, be cognizant of your habits. If you instinctively reach for your phone, ask yourself what the purpose is. Do you really need to check your socials if you checked them 20 minutes ago?
Put the phone down and be present
The cure to doomscrolling? Presence. When you’re not mindlessly scrolling, you can be present. When you’re not draining your emotions with an endless scroll feed, you’ll find yourself enjoying the world around you a little bit more. You’ll feel engaged and attentive, instead of wiped out and lethargic.
Don’t believe us? Try it for yourself. Confine your scroll time to twice per day for 30 minutes each, morning and night. Then, don’t touch your socials throughout the day. Do this Monday through Friday and see how you feel headed into the weekend. We bet you’ll feel happier, more energized and less irritable—not to mention more optimistic and at peace.