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Doom scrolling: Stop the social media spiral

While it is important to keep up with the news, one should take care that this doesn't lead into the cycle of doom scrolling and negatively impact your mental health.

The pandemic created new habits for many of us. One being a 50% jump in screen time. A lot of those hours has been devoted to “doom scrolling.” The habit involves non-stop online surfing through negative news and social media. But doing so, causes a major setback to our mental health.

College student Laura Fields is finally starting to feel like herself again. The stress of the past year became so much, she fell into the ritual of scrolling through her news feed at all hours.

“You’re really like letting your emotions get the best of you. It seemed like I couldn’t look away from it,” Fields said.

“Most people who have moved on into addiction don’t recognize that they’re doom scrolling,” said Dr. Margaret Cochran.

However, all that extra time in front of our screens can cause a heavy toll on our mental health.

Cochran said that “people who do a lot of doom scrolling often look like a depressed person. You have trouble sleeping, you may lose your appetite. You will have difficulty with relationships…”

Fields said, “I couldn’t focus on my work. I thought that maybe it’s time to take a step back.”

The key to stop the scroll? Find a way to interrupt the cycle.

“Distractions very important, finding other things to do that are better for you, physical exercise of some sort,” Cochran said.

Start a daily gratitude practice or journal.

“The reason that’s so important is because that rewires your brain in a very positive way,” Cochran said.

Try to stay off social media for at least 72 hours. If that’s too difficult. Decrease the number of hours your online each day.

“Within a month’s time, you should be feeling pretty good again,” Cochran said.

As for Fields, she found relief by writing about her experiences in her school newspaper.

“I felt like other students would kind of relate to that,” she said.

But the most important thing to consider according to Cochran: “There is life beyond social media.”

Cochran said the key is to find a balance. It’s OK to be online, but if you’re constantly checking social media or feel like you’re missing out when you’re not; it might be time to step away from the phone. If you have trouble doing so, make sure you talk to someone or seek professional help.