May 10, 2022
Seek out more feel-good content and limit time online for your family’s overall wellness.
Doomscrolling or Doomsurfing (verb):
Surfing or scrolling through bad news even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing.
When we doomscroll, we spend hours seeking out and reading negative articles. We may think we’re simply keeping ourselves informed and prepared, but really, we’re stoking needless worry and internal stress.
It’s natural to look for information that will help us prepare for how to protect ourselves when uncertainty looms. But when we only focus on negative stories, we unnecessarily exaggerate the threat.
With little else to do during the coronavirus lockdown and a constant stream of threatening headlines, 2020 became the year of doomscrolling. But negative news cycles continued after the pandemic, and it’s easier than ever to fall down the rabbit hole of angry social media feeds and negative news updates.
What Doomscrolling Does to Our Brains
It’s good to be informed, but consuming constant bad news doesn’t empower us with knowledge. Instead, doomscrolling instills feelings of angst, vulnerability, and hopelessness, which are detrimental to our mental health.
Research shows that people who consume gloom-and-doom media are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress when compared with those people who choose to limit their exposure to negative stories.
The human brain is hardwired to doomscroll. More information helps us understand what’s happening around us and generates the feel-good hormone dopamine—just like food or drugs. Except the news we find is never complete, leaving us even more anxious yet wanting more. The result is a vicious cycle toward increasingly discouraging stories.
Young adults and teens can fall into a doomscrolling habit, too. So what can we do about it?
Four Tips To Help You Stop Doomscrolling
It’s a good time to consider whether you have a doomscrolling habit. Track the online time you spend reading the news. Ask yourself how this information is affecting your mood and sleep patterns. If you feel depressed and lie awake at night feeling anxious, you probably need to change your reading habits. Here are a few tactics that can help you reduce a doomscrolling habit.
1. Ask if the content is useful
You don’t need to cut out news altogether—just be more selective about your choices. Pay attention to what you’re reading. When choosing an article, think about the specific information you want to receive from it. As you read, check in with yourself. Is it actually giving you useful facts or just stoking fears?
2. Limit your news-reading time
Another strategy for kicking the doomscroll habit is to create a set time for browsing the latest news. Keep off screens first thing in the morning, so you don’t start the day with discouragement. And try to reduce or eliminate screen time before bed for better sleep.
For example, set a limit for 30 minutes in the late morning and then another 30 minutes in the afternoon. Circle has a Time Limits feature that will cut off your access to specific news or social media sites after your 30 minutes are up. You can also Filter content with a focus on quality news.
3. Reduce or turn off notifications
The easiest way to reduce doomscrolling is to not start as much in the first place. If you get notifications from news apps, disable them or reduce the number you get. Once we’re reading what’s trending on our favorite news outlets, it can be hard to pull away.
You can also try to make the news sites you read less appealing by turning off the color on your screen. Color options are usually found in the settings section of your smartphone.
4. Balance online and offline time
Lastly, make sure that you balance your online activity with offline activity. After finishing a 30-minute news reading session, do a project that you enjoy that doesn’t require a screen, like sketching, exercising, or spending time with loved ones.
Four Tips To Help Your Kids With Doomscrolling
If your kids—especially older teens—spend a lot of time on devices, they might fall into the doomscrolling habit, too. While every parent should set their own boundaries, here are a few ways you can help kids develop healthy limits on how they use their devices.
1. Help teens understand their goals
Most teenagers don’t want to spend all day on their phones feeling discouraged. But just like adults, it’s easy to forget what they do want instead. Start a conversation with your teen about what their ideal day would look like. How much time would they spend on a device? What kind of content would they consume? Just being more aware of their own goals can help teens change their habits.
2. Help choose content to consume
When your kid is scrolling through news or social media, help them read a balanced selection of articles. Choose news sources that offer the facts without catastrophizing. Look for positive headlines and uplifting features to add to their daily consumption.
On social media, ask your teen about the people they follow and the content they see. Does it seem realistic? Are the posts on their feed an accurate depiction of each person’s everyday life?
3. Engage kids offline
If the only thing teens know to do after school is on a device, that’s where they’ll turn. Make it easy for kids to choose offline activities instead. Create dedicated screen-free spaces in your home with everything your teen needs to do an activity without screens. Make it a family event to keep kids engaged with the rest of the family.
4. Set healthy limits
You can use Circle to help limit your family’s time online with features like Filter, Pause, and Bedtime. Choose what types of websites and apps to allow or restrict, and set daily time limits for each kid.
Perhaps those offline activities will inspire a new healthier habit: bloomscrolling—the idea of seeking content that inspires growth, beauty, restart, and positivity.