My morning routine begins when I wake up naturally around 8 a.m. First, I grab my phone to check my texts, my emails, my DMs, and my news app. I usually see that someone has criticized the President so I log on to see his poorly structured rebuttal. I pause to worry if this is the offense that will cause the next world war? Nah, we’re safe for today. I get up, make my coffee, and take my dog out. Somewhere in there, I lose a few hours to NY Times articles, The Daily Podcast, and ironic memes about the world ending. My morning comes to a close with the early onset of emotional exhaustion. Then, I prepare for what the evening news will bring. I’m guessing this hits close to home for some of you. An endless refresh of bad news is always just beyond a little flick of the finger. It’s so prevalent that there’s now a word for it: Doomscrolling.
As a big listener of True Crime content, I’m often asked why women are so drawn to such dark subjects. My explanation? We want to know the very worst-case scenarios. At least that way, you feel mentally prepared to handle them in the event they become your reality. It is essentially a practice in human survival. This is exactly what we are doing when we plunge into our daily Doomscrolling sesh. As humans we feel a deep need to associate meaning to everything. It’s how we understand the world. Thus, we take in mass amounts of content each day to try and find meaning. Then, we hope it helps us in our own preservation.
The reality is Doomscrolling is in itself an unproductive act. We will never learn of all the threats to our well-being. You cannot stop most of what’s happening, especially not from your couch. But still we turn to this sadistic self-soothing ritual, even though it’s ruining our lives.
I do not want to discount that we are being given a major opportunity to level up our knowledge. Doing so allows us to pay this knowledge forward with the click of a share button. But it’s also true that we are also taking huge hits to our mental health. To quote Edward Tufte, American Statistician, “There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software companies.” It isn’t a coincidence that you feel like you’re constantly being summoned back for more. The internet and social media apps were designed this way. In their efforts to become the world’s most powerful corporations, your well-being became transactional.
While the presses won’t stop anytime soon, we can find healthy and helpful ways to manage our behaviors online. Here’s some actionable ways to help taper off your Doomscrolling habit.
Turn It Off
The first step to freeing yourself from your screen is to turn off all social media and news alerts to your phone. If you can take it this far, even nix your email alerts. With every little ping or banner, you’re being pulled back in deeper. At first, it may feel like you’re going to miss out when the big thing hits, but soon you will find yourself feeling less and less of a pull.
Set Some Limits
Boundaries with yourself are key. Set a maximum amount of time you will allow yourself to spend on your phone. I set an activity reminder that monitors how long I spend on the app and alerts when I’ve hit the limit. I’ve also made my activity on Instagram a game of sorts, where I reward myself each time I come in under the limit amount for the day.
Remix Your Bedtime Routine
In place of my evening Doomscrolling (which can be especially haunting), I have started doing Yin Yoga for sleep. Before I begin my yoga practice, I plug my phone in across the room and don’t touch it until I wake the next morning. I find lighting a candle, putting on light music, and turning down the lights prepares my body for peaceful rest instead of continuing to hit my brain with little bouts of anxiety which keeps my body buzzing longer.
Disconnect To Reconnect
While socializing is still a no-no in many communities, we cannot outlook the importance of connection. Putting our phone away and taking a walk with a friend or simply turning our phone on airplane mode to have a one-on-one conversation is invaluable in these times. Even expressing your fears about the current world with someone will soothe you in a much stronger way than the eternal scroll can.
Let’s face it: we are never going to stop Doomscrolling completely. That would mean throwing your smartphone in the ocean and setting up shop in complete remoteness. However, as long as we are aware of our habits, we can edit them. Pay attention to how many hours you spend online today, and try to do better tomorrow. Find what types of content bring you the most anxiety, and don’t go back to them.