Globally, this year saw an unprecedented amount of time we spent on our phones, due to the COVID lockdowns!

Doomscrolling: You do it, but don’t beat yourself up!

During this pandemic, all the aunts and uncles becoming COVID treatment experts aside, we’ve heard a lot of new buzzwords: social distancing, flatten the curve, respirators vs ventilators, quarantine vs isolation, etc.

Here’s another one: Doomscrolling!

Doomscrolling causes our anxiety levels to rise! Image: Right As Rain by UW Medicine

It’s when a person spends countless hours scrolling through social media, reading posts about terrible news, pandemics, global catastrophes, etc. that negatively impact mental health. In other words: Before we have our morning coffee, we think the world is going to end!

Some stats. In the first half of the year,

  • People spent 1.6 trillion hours on their phones!
  • $50 billion was spent on mobile apps by consumers, that’s 25% than ever before!
  • People spent more time shopping than the 2019 holiday season (October — December)
  • Mobile ad placements jumped 70%

That’s how bad we’re hooked to our phones!

Though the aforementioned habit has been around, the term is new. The year, given the pandemic lockdowns, ensured we stay locked at home, giving us a lot of free time to spend on social media. And social media’s design ensures doomscrolling!

Online, we’re trapped inside an algorithm that filters and recommends what to read, based on our past reading patterns! It means, if you like or engage with content which are stories about the world in catastrophe or about to end, the algorithm will feed you more of that — that’s why most of the social media call their post sign in landing pages, the News FEED!

As adults, we suffer from negativity bias, or our tendency not only to register negative stimuli more readily but also to dwell on these events!

You’d probably remember a cobra you encountered on a hike than the beautiful trail you took!

On LinkedIn, for instance, influencers, for the attention economy, use emotionally charged posts to take advantage of this, albeit unknowingly, bias. They create content which we can relate to, in turn garnering our attention because it feels good to us.

In turn: it gets them more attention! So, they are motivated to keep doing it!

Doomscrolling triggers you the same way!

It is unnerving to think about what is being done to garner our attention in the name of ‘connectedness’!

Tomorrow, you might say I will break this negative habit, but face it, breaking a habit is hard and you’ll be right back where you started, even after reading this!

The Social Dilemma on Netflix also highlights these issues amongst a host of others — how we live digitally and in real life!

From personal experience, it’s hard to resist the urge not to open social media and stop spending our attention on things that make us anxious!

Next time, maybe consciously when you feel you’re doomscrolling, you won’t feel so bad about it — because you know it’s not your fault! It’s normal human behaviour to want attention, and the addiction has been triggered by life and social media’s design!




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Vaibhav Agarwal

Vaibhav Agarwal

Analytics Leader | Love Writing | Foodie | Travel Enthusiast | Plane Spotter

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