Doomscrolling: The Silent Productivity Killer

Photo of masked cell user

Photo of masked cell userYou are what you eat. At a young age we’re taught that in order to be physically healthy, we must be mindful of what we put in our bodies. If we eat high calorie, sugar-filled, fatty foods, our body will lack the vitamins and nutrients we need to function effectively. However, we are so much more than what we eat. We are what we consume.

Much like the way our body absorbs and processes food, we absorb and process everything we see, think, and feel. When we surround ourselves with positive thinkers and problem solvers that challenge us to become better, we are inclined to mentally align with those people. When we are exposed to new cultures or the arts, our worldview tends to expand, and we become more open to new, unique experiences. When we intentionally surround ourselves with positive influences, we unlock powerful opportunities to enrich our mindset. Unfortunately, we are equally affected by negative influences.

Throughout the past decade, as smartphones and social media connectivity have advanced rapidly, the way we consume the world around us has changed fundamentally. We’re only beginning to understand the addictive of nature social media and on-demand access to technology. In the Netflix documentary “Social Dilemma,” tech experts share a terrifying picture of how social media companies manipulate social psychology to continuously lure us back onto their platforms.

Throughout 2020, we’ve been increasingly pulled onto social media in an effort to gain real-time updates on breaking news. From the pandemic to the Presidential election, we’ve been inundated with non-stop notifications and updates. Unfortunately the news has rarely been positive this year, so once we read the update, we tend to keep scrolling for more information. At times, we scroll for more information so we can feel more prepared against a looming threat. Other times. we scroll in hopes of distracting our minds temporarily or to find some good news that will bring comfort. However, we often find the opposite. We find more bad news like murder hornets, wildfires, drought, hurricanes, and civil unrest. Suddenly, we find ourselves in an endless session of Doomscrolling.

Doomscrolling is characterized by incessantly scrolling through doom-and-gloom news via the internet and social media. With each swipe, we sink further and further into emotional quicksand that eats away at both our mental health and productivity. This self-destructive behavior feeds depression and anxiety with the ingredients they crave: fear and sadness. As we become consumed with despair and fatigue, it becomes increasingly difficult to disconnect from the device and return to reality.

But once you put the phone down, the impact remains. Our cognitive resources have been depleted, we struggle to focus, and we feel exhausted. While our bodies have remained motionless, our brains have run a marathon trying to hurdle each incoming threat. After hours of training our brains to catastrophize, we tend to see the world around us as a wasteland of imminent danger. We lack the motivation to move forward and have adopted a negative bias within our thoughts.

It’s critical that we take control of our mental health and reprogram our brains to avoid doomscrolling. Here are some tips for regaining control of your mental outlook:

  1. Go into your phone settings and turn off all incoming notifications for social media apps. Right now you’re probably thinking “That’s crazy! How will I know if something interesting is happening?” And that is a crystal clear sign of social media addiction. By turning off the notification, you reduce the “pull” effect the incoming alerts have on you. When you’re focused and productive, the last thing you need is for Facebook to remind you of the pictures you posted 3 years ago.
  2. Re-organize the apps on your phone. Take the apps that lend themselves towards Doomscrolling and place them in a separate folder on a different screen. The less visible the app is for you, the less likely you’ll click on it out of boredom.
  3. Set time limits for yourself. There are plenty of apps that help limit social media consumption or you can just set a timer on your phone. Resist the urge to snooze the timer when it goes off. There’s a reason you set the timer in the first place.
  4. Curate your content. Take a good look at the people within your social media network and the news sources to which you subscribe. Imagine that network is a giant mental pot luck. Do you have a network full of people that bring Super Foods to the pot luck or have you invited Guy Fieri? Silence or remove the people who are feeding your brain with negativity and anxiety-ridden content.
  5. Walk away. Put the phone down and walk away. Fill your free time with activities that do not involve technology at all. Read new books, go for a walk, go for a drive, take up a new hobby. Do anything that makes you inaccessible to the lure of social media.

Above all else, learn to listen to your body. As you become more in tune with your physiological reaction to stress, you’ll be able to identify the effects of Doomscrolling. When your heart starts racing and you begin to feel anxious, it’s time to walk away and feed your brain with some fresh air.