‘Doomscrolling’—Are We Slaves to The Social Media?

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With our interests being influenced, it is possible that we are part of the big “hive mind”.

In today’s hyperconnected world, social media has become an integral part of our lives. We use it to stay connected with friends and family, share news and updates, and consume entertainment. However, there’s a growing concern about the negative effects of excessive social media use, particularly the phenomenon known as “doom-scrolling.”

Doom-scrolling refers to the act of compulsively consuming negative news and information on social media. This can include reading depressing news articles, viewing graphic images, or watching videos of tragic events. While it is natural to be curious about current events, doom-scrolling can become a problem when it leads to increased anxiety, stress, and fear.

Why Do We Doom-scroll?

There are several reasons why we might doom-scroll. One reason is that it’s possible that we are drawn to negative news because it is more stimulating than positive news. Negative news triggers our “fight-or-flight” response, which releases adrenaline and other hormones that make us feel more alert.

Additionally, social media algorithms are designed to keep us engaged, and they often do this by showing us content that is likely to elicit a strong emotional response, such as negative news.

It’s also a part of the reason why we might doom-scroll—we seek reassurance. When we are feeling anxious or uncertain, we may turn to social media to see what others are saying about current events. Say you see a video of an animal getting harmed by a group of humans. The evoked emotion out of you may differ from person to person, but it all boils down to one single response: you would open up the comments section to see the others’ reactions.

The higher the view counts, and the higher number of comments on the video, the more likely you will be fed similar content in the future. The more you’re engaged with the content, the more likely you are to be stuck in the loop. Misery loves company, I might add.

We may also hope that by consuming more information, we will be able to better understand and control the situation. But, as much as this is the outcome people would hope, more often than not we would only see the opposite effect instead—consuming more negative news can actually increase our anxiety. It’s a paradox of seeking reassurance through the consumption of the exact content that induces our anxiety.

The Effects of Doom-scrolling

Doom-scrolling can have a number of negative effects on our mental health. It can increase our anxiety, stress, and fear. It can also lead to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and despair. In some cases, doom-scrolling can even lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Humans tend to copy what others feel through social media as well. It’s a phenomenon called “emotional contagion (emotion + contagious)”. This emotional contagion is so prevalent on social media because of the platforms being designed to be highly engaging. They use algorithms that prioritise content that is likely to elicit a strong emotional response.

This means only one thing: people are likely to be bombarded with emotional stimuli, which can make it difficult to resist emotional contagion, and eventually, it leads to mental fatigue.

In addition to its mental health effects, doom-scrolling can also have a negative impact on our physical health. It can lead to sleep problems, headaches, and digestive issues. It can also make it difficult to concentrate and focus on other tasks.

How to Break the Doom-scrolling Cycle

Hand drawing illustration of freedom concept

If you are concerned about your own doom-scrolling habits, there are a few things you can do to break the cycle.

First thing first: be mindful of your social media use. Being conscious of yourself is important; pay attention to how you are feeling when you are using social media. If you find yourself feeling more anxious, angry, or stressed after using social media, take a break. You don’t owe the world anything for you to keep scrolling.

Also, try to limit your social media time. Set a time limit for yourself each day and stick to it. If it’s difficult to stay away from your phone, try to replace the free time you have for the social media with any activity that takes your attention away i.e. watching movies, spending time with families, playing video games, etc.

Oh, and of course, choose the right content to consume. Unfollow accounts that you find to be negative or depressing (or rage-inducing even). Instead, follow accounts that make you feel happy, inspired, and hopeful. In every social media post (especially on the explore feed where algorithms take care of the content you see), there is an option for you to click on to see less of. On Instagram, for example, the option is located on the drop-down button on the upper-right corner of any post which says “not interested”. Click that, and Instagram will try to reduce feeding you similar content in the future.

Bear in mind, though, that the last suggestion can bring risk echo chambers and filter bubbles to a social media user. Read more about the harmful effects of the user power over social media content here.

Remember, it is important to stay informed about current events. However, it is also important to protect your mental health. By being mindful of your social media use and taking steps to break the doom-scrolling cycle, you can improve your overall well-being.

Interested to read our article on Digital Footprints? Fret not. Click here.

Author

  • Muhammad Hariz

    A ’00 Malaysian freelance writer for MugenMilano. Occasionally writes for fun; otherwise, going to the gym and playing video games would be the R&R for Hariz. Having a keen interest in the area of gaming and technology, Hariz’s written materials would mostly be tech-related and gaming news, particularly in adventure, horror, and fighting genre. Doesn’t stop him from writing other interesting topics, though, as long as it is worth checking out.

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