Donald Trump hasn’t only changed the way the country is run, for many of us, he’s also managed to steal a lot of our time. Many of us no longer read books for pleasure, instead, we consume media and books about politics, social issues, and history. On one front it means a lot of the population is more informed than ever, but on the flip side, all the doom and gloom can take a toll on our mental state.
Author Kurt Eichenwald put it this way, “Used to be, go to bed and read a book. Now it’s go to bed and scroll, with my wife saying ‘stop, it’s just going to make you tense before going to sleep.’ I want my books back.”
Now there are terms to describe this incessant need (or addiction) to the news. Just a few months ago Merriam Webster added the words Doomscrolling and doomsurfing to their “Words We’re Watching” section. These new terms are described as “the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing.”
Doomscrolling can be depressing and it can take a real toll on our psyche. Felicia Gould, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the University of Miami Health System tells News & Guts this phenomenon is currently worse than ever.
After months of news dominated by rising death tolls, damages to the economy, job losses, and family hardships due to the pandemic then racial discrimination and police brutality dominated the airwaves. Now, many potential voters have to contend with significant anxiety over the upcoming election. Regardless of what side they are on, anxiety over the potential changes in our government as well as the ubiquitous negative campaign ads further intensify American anxiety in an already anxious nation. It is no wonder the mental health pandemic has closely followed the COVID-19 related one.
The Washington Post says there are statistics to back all this up:
News consumption jumped dramatically at the start of the pandemic in March, when several news outlets reported spikes in Web traffic. Digital readership has since leveled off some, but for many sites, it’s still higher than pre-pandemic times. Over the summer, cable outlets like Fox News and the evening newscasts of the three big networks attracted some of the biggest audiences they’ve had in years.
But the news cycle has gotten out of hand in recent weeks, and many of us have the horrifying screen-time reports to show for it.
If you are looking to cut down on your time spent doomscrolling, perhaps you find someone who can alert you when there big news. In other words, they spend the time weeding through the stories and let you know when it’s something important.
What are some ways to end (or at least cut down on) doomscrolling? Here’s some advice.
Instead of staying glued to a screen Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist and co-author of the book “The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World.” also had these tips for the Seattle Times:
It’s also important to rethink breaks. Before the pandemic, one of our typical lunch breaks involved browsing Facebook. With nowhere to go out for lunch under shelter-in-place orders, browsing the web has become the default work break, an obvious trap that could lead to doomscrolling.
Instead of staying glued to a screen, take a stroll around the block, hop on the exercise bike, prepare your favorite snack. And yes, set calendar appointments even for your breaks, Gazzaley said.
One more piece of advice? Find a good (non-news related) TV show to binge, one that hopefully has dozens of episodes and maybe even has moments that make you smile or laugh.