6 ways to avoid pandemic ‘doomscrolling’

Published Nov 17, 2020


CAPE TOWN- A South African digital and social media expert says that people have been consuming mostly bad news, otherwise known as “doomscrolling”, which may have negative mental health impacts.

Amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic, lockdown, fluctuating cases, and political corruption, Dean McCoubrey from MySociaLife questions if people didn’t consume as much negative media would we see people feeling less stress fear and anxiety?

“The trend of doomscrolling has never been higher than in 2020. The intersection of a health and financial crisis, the introspection of a lockdown, and increased screen time means that we have more access to local and international doom and gloom than ever before in history,” he said.

If the pandemic had occurred a decade ago in 2010, the news surrounding the crisis would have been limited to just 2 billion internet users. According to Statista, in 2020, there are now over 4.5 billion users online with almost 4 billion people using social media and accessing news via their smart devices.

"The news cycle has undoubtedly saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives, but there is definitely the fallout of an infodemic. In schools, the number one lesson that our students asked for in our digital life orientation program last month - out of the eight modules which we offer - was mental health, and the second most requested lesson was tools to help focus. With teens having similar access to adults via social media their brains are not necessarily equipped to process or manage this flood of information, even if they appear technologically confident and competent,” he said.

Here are 6 ways, according to McCoubrey, to own your time more wisely and see mental health benefits


Take a break from news for 14 days: A media less of your news detox will prove that life goes on regardless of your news consumption


Turn your phone off, and place it another room after work: Research shows that we will return to our phones if they are nearby and the phone is still on


Eat meals without phones: Talk with family members and friends - real-life connection and honest conversation matters


Read fiction: Many have become obsessed by reality TV and social feeds, leaving us comparing our lives to others momentary snapshots. Jump into a good story


Take up a brand new hobby: Wire the brain to build a new skill and enjoy the distraction of a challenge, rather than following the same habits - including answering every notification or scrolling negative news daily.


Exercise: Even a walk is important to reward your body. Not just the physical activity - but also the ability to see the vast and amazing world of nature that surrounds us in South Africa.

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covid 19