What is doomscrolling and why could it affect you?

Informing ourselves can be a great option to know the state of the world in the pandemic. However … did you know that it can also be counterproductive?.

Man using his cell phone

Doosmcrolling is a habit that can backfire. / Photo: Pexels

LatinAmerican Post | Ariel Cipolla

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Leer en español: ¿Qué es el ‘doomscrolling’ y por qué podría afectarte?

The COVID-19 pandemic has come to change everything. As all of us, to a greater or lesser extent, saw how our lives changed, it is logical that we look for information to see what happens … although it must be reliable. For example, the BaeNegocios website highlights that there is a new term, called infodemic, which can be caused by excessive information on social networks.

To this concept, we must add a new one: doomscrolling. It is, according to the El Confidencial website, a "terrifying habit" caused by the coronavirus. Basically, it happens when consuming dark stories, which adds to the little certainty we have about the future, but from a catastrophic point of view.

In either case, it seems that overinformation raises concerns in people's lives. Therefore, we decided to find out what can be done to avoid the destructive habits of constantly consuming information on the same subject, especially from a bleak point of view.

How to avoid doomscrolling?

First, we must understand how the mind works in the face of adversity. According to what the Observatory of Educational Innovation of Mexico mentions, our brain "is programmed to give priority to bad news." In other words, the need to consume a large amount of content can take a dark turn when most of the information is bad news.

University of Sussex Professor Emeritus of Psychology Graham Davey explains that the way data is presented to users has changed over the past 20 years. This can affect people's mental health, since, thanks to the irruption of the Internet, we all have access to news from all over the world… something that has worsened in the middle of a pandemic.

Basically, the keyword in this matter is "threat." The website La Nación highlights that the time with the cell phone increased more than 30% during the pandemic. The psychoanalyst of the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association (APA), Diana Sahovaler de Litvinoff, emphasizes that the search for negative situations "is a way of identifying oneself", which is why internal anguish is projected with what happens abroad.

Also read: COVID-19: Social media users more likely to believe false information


La Tercera's website also says that “we get stuck seeing bad news”, surfing non-stop, causing our primitive instincts to generate an obsession with stressful news. University of Texas San Antonio psychology professor Mary MacNaughton-Cassill highlights that our brains evolved to constantly seek threats and survive. This is why we seem "predisposed" to pay more attention to the negative than the positive.

It is a situation that always occurs in life, but intensifies with the appearance of a worldwide problem. As there is still no vaccine, all the time we will be seeing catastrophic news from different parts of the planet. In addition, the ease of accessing news from around the world can generate a different perspective than what happens in the place where we live, for example.

A clear example of how we consume catastrophic information related to the present is given with the possible "new diseases of global danger" that constantly arise, such as the new swine flu that the Infobae site said that "has the capacity to generate a pandemic." This is news that, in another context, may go unnoticed, but not now. 

However, there are some solutions to avoid this. The New York Times website mentions that awareness exercises "can help us break the cycle of continuous information consumption" , so the idea of practicing meditation, imagining positive situations, can help us feel at peace with ourselves.

At the same time, it is also essential to generate better control of our time. We will not always seek information, but it will come to us. Therefore, it is convenient to manage our screen time, something that can be done with different applications, such as Quality Time.

According to the specialized media of El Grupo Informático, Quality Time is ideal "to control the use of the smartphone", counting the minutes we spend in each application. Therefore, combining good introspection with managing the time we spend in front of the screens can help alleviate that feeling of anguish produced by constantly seeing bad news.

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