How To Pull Yourself Out of a Doomscrolling Pit

When staying up to date with current events becomes a personal crisis, it’s clear it is time to make a change.

Under the Arch

How To Pull Yourself Out of a Doomscrolling Pit

When staying up to date with current events becomes a personal crisis, it’s clear it is time to make a change. 

A person puts their elbows down as they cover their face in frustration. The monitor in front of them displays “breaking news” in white text against a red background.

With an overwhelming influx of news at the press of a button, it is important to be engaged while prioritizing your media boundaries.

Cameron Roberts, Contributing Writer | Mar 26, 2023

“Did you hear the news?”

These five words have a reputation for their ability to leave anyone feeling anxious. For many, the thought of missing a breaking news story is the end of the world.

Finding yourself locked into an unending cycle of compulsively checking the news isn’t uncommon. In fact, research suggests that it has become one of the leading causes of mental health problems for young adults across the country.

Problematic news consumption has been linked to higher levels of stress, anxiety and poor health, according to new research. The American Psychological Association has gone as far as to refer to new terms for news-induced stress among young adults. Most college students have experienced or heard about “doomscrolling” or “headline anxiety.”

Staying informed isn’t always a conscious choice — for all of their teenage and adult lives, members of Generation Z have found themselves bombarded by breaking news on social media. You can either stay informed and up to date on the news, or consciously protect your mental health — it often feels like there’s no in-between.

“Stories that feel out of my control bring me the most stress, such as climate change and gun violence,” said Bridget Matthews, a first-year in NYU’s Liberal Studies program who is a self-identified news addict.

Matthews, who is from California, found herself trying to avoid the news cycle in early January after a string of tragic mass shootings in her home state. She felt her mental health deteriorate, and couldn’t force herself to stay engaged with the developing tragedies. 

Young adults in 2023 are stuck in the fastest-moving news cycle the world has ever seen. The desire to stay engaged with current events can be paralyzing, especially as gut-wrenching stories get churned 24/7 out with no end in sight. And students at NYU aren’t exempt from these global trends.

“I read the news every other day for about an hour, but I am constantly scrolling on Twitter, consuming the news,” Matthews said.

Like many students at NYU, Matthews feels like she has a responsibility to tune in and be informed on the issues facing the world and facing our generation. 

This stress is unnecessary, and is being experienced by far too many students. Staying in the know should add value to your day-to-day life, not take from it. Learning to cope with the stress brought on by the news cycle is essential to tackling the massive problems that face our generation. It might be impossible to completely disconnect, but staying informed doesn’t have to be stressful.

The first change — avoid extremes

Don’t tune in too much, don’t check out completely. Perhaps easier said than done, but it’s clear that neither option is worthwhile.

“I’m never in a good mood after reading the news,” said Rory Reis, an L.S. first-year. Reis said that she finds herself avoiding the news at all costs to prevent unnecessary stress. Despite the fact that many are ashamed to admit it, avoiding the news isn’t uncommon among young adults.

Striking the perfect balance when it comes to your news consumption starts with planning. Think about how and when you want to receive the news, and do your best to limit your consumption to scheduled time periods. Home-delivered newspapers weren’t nearly as fast at breaking news as online publications are today, but one advantage they offered was that they encouraged routines: the paper would get delivered in the morning, and most people would read it at breakfast or on their commutes.

Today, scheduling your news consumption could mean signing up for a daily newsletter with a quick rundown of the most important stories each morning or listening to something like the “Global News Podcast” from the BBC World Service on your walk to class. It also means reducing your expectations — you don’t have to know everything that is going on to be informed.

Next, you have to force yourself to find the good

As difficult as it may seem, sprinkling good news into your daily consumption makes a huge difference. There are websites that publish feel-good content on the regular, like The Optimist Daily and Good News Network, but if page after page of pandas hugging dogs isn’t quite your thing, a simple solution is to consciously remind yourself to sometimes scroll past the breaking news section at your publication of choice (including this one!), and read the arts and culture sections — which always have interesting reads with strong writing.

Finally, the answer no one wants to hear: think globally, act locally

Massive international crises — like climate change or conflicts going on thousands of miles from home —  tend to bring students the most mental strain. A study published in The Lancet found that in a sample of 10,000 young adults from 10 countries, 75% believed that “the future is frightening.” But the issues students worry about the most are often those that they have the least power to solve. Instead of ruminating on what they can’t change, involving themselves in local efforts can empower students to better their community and help to solve the issues closest to them.

As an intern for the Grassroots Democrats HQ, a nonprofit democratic organization, Matthews has direct experience with local activism.

“A big part of this internship is phone banking, which allows me to talk to more individuals,” Matthews said. “Having those one-on-one conversations allows me to feel more relaxed about the large, existential issues we are facing.”

Reading the news should act as a catalyst for change in your own life, rather than leaving you feeling powerless. For an NYU student struggling with the gravity of massive issues such as climate change, this could mean volunteering with conservation groups, or even establishing a consistent compost or recycling routine. Change doesn’t have to be massive — little actions build up.

In a world where the news is constantly changing, staying engaged is critical. It not only helps you understand the world around you, but it makes you a more informed citizen, enabling you to make responsible decisions in your day-to-day life. When tuning in becomes too much, there is always something you can do to make your news consumption healthy again. Changing for yourself is the first step to helping change the world.