If you check social media as soon as you wake up, work online for a living, spend hours scrolling the internet after work, or fall asleep basking in the glow of your phone’s blue light, there’s a good chance you’re a doomscroller.
Doomscrolling is a fairly new term that gained popularity after people began quarantining to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The term is used to describe the act of scrolling through social media feeds and consuming a seemingly endless amount of concerning news. If you’re anything like me, you enjoy being in the know at all times, and news-related FOMO makes you reluctant to unplug from social media. So doomscrolling can be a hard habit to break.
Wanting to stay informed is totally understandable, but there are ways to do so that don’t take as large of a toll on your mental health as doomscrolling does. In an effort to help our fellow doomscrollers cut back on the potentially harmful habit, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of practical steps you can take to stop doomscrolling. We hope these suggestions help, and remember: It’s OK to be offline every now and again.
1. Reorganize the apps on your phone
If you’re looking to start small, reorganizing the apps on your device is a simple way to put a little bit of distance between you and your social media feeds.
Rather than keeping popular apps like Twitter and Instagram (or anything you don’t want to use as often) on your homepage, move them to the third or fourth page of your device so you have to do some work to access them. I personally keep my Twitter app on the last page of my iPhone in a folder labeled “Don’t Touch,” and though I still use it often, the setup does makes me think twice before clicking and occasionally persuades me to reevaluate.
Image: screenshot / nicole gallucci
An editor of mine also suggested periodically deleting social media apps from your phone. Doing so will hopefully help you check the platforms less frequently, since you’ll only be accessing them on desktop.
2. Set usage limits and be aware of your screen time
If you’re not in the mood to reorganize your apps (or have done so and are now looking to take some extra steps) consider setting time limits for the usage of certain apps.
If there’s a specific app you’re looking to cut back on, see if there’s a way to add usage restrictions within the platform. For instance, Instagram lets you manage your activity. All you have to do is go to your profile on the app and click the three lines in the upper right hand corner of your screen. After doing so, select “Your Activity” and “Set Daily Reminder.” You can choose an amount of time between five minutes and 23 hours and 55 minutes (lmao.) Then, after you’ve used up your daily Instagram minutes the app will alert you so you can cut back on usage.
Image: screenshot / instagram
If you have an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, you can also use Screen Time. The feature allows you to monitor how often you use your screen, see which apps you spend the most time on, and set daily time limits for them. You can also use Screen Time’s “Downtime” feature to set scheduled time away from your screen. “During downtime, only apps that you choose to allow and phone calls will be available,” the setting reads.
was also created to help people manage their tech usage and find a healthy balance between online and offline life. You can learn more information about your tech habits, along with tips on how to focus and tools to help you unplug on wellbeing.google. And if you need to stop scrolling social media on your phone and desktop, the website blocker, Freedom, can help, too. You can test out the service with a free trial, and there are also several free browser extensions available for download. (Compatible with Mac, Windows, iOD, Android, Chromebook, and Linux.)
Image: screenshot / freedom.to
If you’re not into app-specific time limits, consider setting a daily alarm to remind yourself to unplug. For instance, if a “Stop Doomscrolling” alarm goes off at 9:00 p.m. and tells you to unplug, you might remember to enjoy the rest of your night social media free. Doesn’t that sound lovely?
3. Switch to a Good Screen (or abandon screens all together)
After a long day of being online, I consider any screen that displays social media to be Bad. Good screens include televisions, e-book readers, and gaming consoles — but laptops and phones have the ability to be good depending on their purpose.
Instead of wasting hours doomscrolling, use your devices for something fun! Catch up on some television shows, shop, play a video game, and read or write for pleasure.
Another great way to ensure you don’t spiral into another doomscrolling session is to do something that doesn’t involve a screen at all. Read a physical book. Take a walk. Safely catch up with friends and family members. Try paint-by-numbers. Practice some self-care. Finding hobbies and activities that bring you joy and separate you from social media is important.
4. Physically distance yourself from your screens
If you’re still struggling to restrict your social media usage, consider taking slightly more drastic measures.
For starters, try turning the volume on and leaving your phone in a different room whenever you feel you need a break. You won’t check it as frequently, but you’ll still be able to hear any incoming messages or calls.
You can also consider buying a phone case with a cover on it, like these, in hopes of making less eye contact with your screen. And I highly recommend downloading a productivity app, such as Forest, which locks your screen for a set amount of time. The app discourages you from checking your phone by planting a cute virtual tree that will only grow to completion if your phone remains locked for the set time. The app holding you accountable is definitely encouraging.
If you haven’t already, you should also make an effort to sleep apart from your phone and other tech devices. Earlier this year, I tried sleeping in a separate room as my phone for a week and though the separation admittedly took some getting used to, falling asleep and waking up without social media at my fingertips was truly refreshing.
If you rely on your phone to wake you up every morning, it’s time to take the plunge and splurge on a real alarm clock. If you love tech but are trying to cut screens out of your room entirely, the Loftie Clock is the perfect alarm for you. It’s a bit pricey (you can pre-order one for $129) but the clock offers a bunch of phone-related perks without all the distractions of social media.
5. Switch up the ways in which you consume news
Following trusted sources and having the ability to see trending topics in the area of your choosing makes it possible to get the majority of your news from social media. In some ways, that’s convenient. But the constant consumption of news, updates, and opinions also makes logging off difficult.
In an attempt to start using social media less, try using other news sources more. Instead of spending hours on your timeline, try visiting platforms like Apple News and Flipboard to get straight news without all the other distractions of social media. You can also sign up for informative newsletters and set aside time in your day to watch the news and catch up on what you missed. (Just remember to turn it off after an hour or two and unwind for the rest of the night.)
If you’re searching for more instant information gratification, sign up for some breaking news alerts or enable social media notifications for select users. This way, you can stay in-the-know without having to scroll all the time.
We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and only months away from the U.S. presidential election, so every social media scroll is bound to feature some level of doom. But if you make an honest effort to cut back on doomscrolling, you’ll definitely have more time in your day to experience moments of genuine joy.