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Scholars Warn About Danger of 'Doomscrolling' Amid Global Crises

CC0 / / Depression
Depression - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.03.2022
The researchers note that when negative information “hijacks our attention and memory, it will drain cognitive power that could be used for other things.”
While there seems to be no shortage in depressing news these days – what with the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, rising cost of living, and the current crisis in Ukraine, to name a few – becoming too focused on browsing such reports may have a detrimental effect on one’s mental health, researchers from University of Cambridge and Fudan University warn.
Sharing their thought on the subject in an article published on The Conversation, the researchers caution against so-called doomscrolling, which they describe as “spending an excessive amount of screen time devoted to reading negative news."
Such behaviour, the article’s authors argue, may induce feelings of anxiety and depression, in no small part due to a psychological phenomenon called “mood induction” (an intervention that can change our mood).
Another phenomenon involved in this matter is empathy, as viewing tragic world events on the news may lead a person to “ruminating on negative thoughts, which have an impact on our mental health and wellbeing.”
“Such conditions can over time have a huge effect on our minds, leading to actual cognitive impairments such as reduced attention or problems with memory and reasoning. After all, if negative information hijacks our attention and memory, it will drain cognitive power that could be used for other things,” the researchers warn. “And when we are constantly soaking up negative news and recording negative memories, we feel even more down – creating a vicious cycle.”
They also note that the longer one remains “stuck with a low mood," the harder it is for them to “think flexibly, easily switching between different perspectives," which may lead to a person suffering from “feelings of powerlessness and helplessness.”
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In order to avoid this outcome, the researchers suggest “avoiding obsessive doomscrolling” and instead having moments of respite by either doing something enjoyable, such as reading a good book or watching a fun film, or perhaps even learning a new skill.
“In a modern globalized world with many forms of technology and constant bombardment of information and streams of stimulation – some good and some bad – it is important to identify your goals,” the article’s authors state. “But it is equally important to develop a strategy for achieving them and for avoiding distraction. So the bottom line is to try to stay positive and resilient – for your sake and others.”
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