Do you often lose track of time when scrolling through online news feeds and find yourself reading one negative story after another? If so, you could be engaging in doomscrolling – a phenomenon which has become increasingly common in today’s digital age. Doomscrolling can have a significant impact on many aspects of your life such as health, social communication and productivity. This article discusses the science behind this negative behaviour and provides strategies to help you stop so that you can prioritise your mental health and overall well-being.
Have You Heard of Doomscrolling?
Undoubtedly, technology has changed how we stay informed about global events. What used to be a short news release on TV turned into a round-the-clock flow of information at every user’s fingertips. Temporal and geographical boundaries have disappeared, and people with access to the Internet can follow the news at any time of day or night, tracking the events in all corners of the globe.
The worst about digital media dynamics is fierce competition, which makes news channels use unethical psychological tricks to engage and hook their audiences. With so many digital media resources struggling for users’ screen time, one can get swamped into an unending swirl of entertaining and shocking headlines, wasting more and more time on news scrolling every new day. As a result, millions of people subscribe to dozens of news channels and study all of them instead of spending high-quality time with their families, walking in the open air, or completing job duties faster and better.
That’s not to say that keeping pace with the news is unhealthy. In fact, being interested in what’s happening in the world is totally fine – unless you get addicted to the endless news feed on your smartphone. If the latter describes you, and the first thing you do in the morning is open several channels to find out how many people died in a distant corner of the world, we have bad news for you. You’ve become hooked on ‘doomscrolling’ – a novel term that characterizes addiction-like user conduct on social media and news resources. It’s manifested in uncontrolled, prolonged scrolling of news (predominantly negative) in an illusionary effort to keep the events around you in check.
In this article, we’re dealing with the doomscrolling phenomenon from all perspectives to familiarize you with its main symptoms and self-diagnosis criteria for a quick check of whether you’re affected by this problem. Science says that specific personality types are more susceptible to doomscrolling risks, and we’ll find out which ones are in greater danger, helping you evaluate the risks more accurately. We also discuss how doomscrolling may hurt your social communication, mental well-being, and productivity. Finally, we propose workable tips for overcoming doomscrolling behavior and reducing your addiction to shocking headlines and endless news checking. Read on to learn everything about doomscrolling and take proper steps for ousting it from your life.
Doomscrolling – The New Drug of the 21st Century
Have you ever found yourself endlessly scrolling through the news, reading one tragic story after another? If so, you’re not alone. This phenomenon, known as “doomscrolling” or “doomsurfing,” has become increasingly common today. We’ve all experienced those moments when we get caught up in the cycle of doomscrolling, unable to tear our eyes away from the screen, even though it leaves us feeling drained and anxious.
But why do we do it? Why can’t we resist the pull of these devastating stories? And what are the consequences of constantly consuming negative news? In this article, we’ll explore the psychology behind doomscrolling and offer some tips for breaking the cycle. Also, check out our essay database, where you can find thousands of free papers on the most acute topics.
What is Doomscrolling?
The term “doomscrolling” gained popularity in early 2020 to describe a digital behavior that became more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic due to physical isolation. Initially coined in 2018 and later popularized by journalist Karen Ho, doomscrolling refers to continuously and obsessively scrolling through social media feeds, primarily focusing on distressing, depressing, or harmful content.
*Check out Karen Ho’s Doomscrolling Reminder Bot, which reminds you to take a break and stop doomscrolling.
Doomscrolling differs from regular scrolling in terms of its content and psychological impact. While scrolling typically involves navigating through various types of content, including news, entertainment, or social updates, doomscrolling involves getting trapped in a cycle of consuming alarming headlines, gloomy statistics, and disheartening stories. Unlike regular scrolling, which can be casual and enjoyable, doomscrolling tends to be more compulsive and emotionally draining, leading to increased anxiety, stress, and a sense of helplessness.
10 Signs You Are Doomscrolling
Here are several signs that you are most probably doomscrolling:
You endlessly swipe through feeds without realizing how much time has passed.
Your primary attention is on distressing, harmful, or alarming news, often disregarding positive or neutral stories.
You struggle to put your device down or can’t resist the urge to keep scrolling, even when it’s affecting your mood or productivity.
You frequently feel anxious, overwhelmed, or upset after being online.
You have trouble falling asleep or have restless nights.
You can’t fully concentrate on other tasks and responsibilities.
You can’t break the cycle of encountering more distressing information.
You underestimate the time you spend scrolling, realizing later that it has eaten up a substantial portion of your day.
You have frequent headaches, eye strain, or muscle tension from prolonged screen time.
You prioritize scrolling through negative news over engaging in self-care activities or pursuing hobbies.
The Science Behind Doomscrolling
According to a survey published in Health Communication, approximately 16.5% of the 1,100 participants surveyed displayed signs of excessive problematic news consumption, contributing to higher stress levels, anxiety, and a negative impact on overall health. The question is, what mechanisms in our brain pull us into this vicious cycle?
Doomscrolling can be partly explained by our brain’s reward system. When we encounter novel or unexpected information, it triggers dopamine release, which is associated with pleasure and reward. Our brain becomes conditioned to expect this reward, leading to a cycle of seeking out and consuming more negative information, even though it may be psychologically distressing.
Moreover, due to its evolutionary significance, our brain is wired to pay more attention to negative information. This negativity bias is a survival mechanism and helps us identify potential environmental threats and dangers. When something as important as the COVID-19 pandemic happens, we strive to consume as much information as possible because we think that the more we know, the more prepared we are. Although we begin this behavior as a deliberate action – trying to find information in a crisis – we get trapped in the loop of automatic and unintentional doomscrolling.
To read the rest of the article which discusses the potential impacts of doomscrolling and how to stop click here.