Doomscrolling or doomsurfing is the act of spending an excessive amount of time reading large quantities of negative news online.[1][2] In 2019, a study by the National Academy of Sciences found that doomscrolling can be linked to a decline in mental and physical health.[3]

History Edit

Origins Edit

The practice of doomscrolling can be compared to an older phenomenon from the 1970s called the mean world syndrome, described as "the belief that the world is a more dangerous place to live in than it actually is as a result of long-term exposure to violence-related content on television".[4] Studies show that seeing upsetting news leads people to seek out more information on the topic, creating a self-perpetuating cycle.[5]

In common parlance, the word "doom" connotes darkness and evil, referring to one's fate (cf. damnation).[6] In the early online days, "surfing" was a common verb used in reference to browsing the internet; similarly, the word "scrolling" refers to sliding through online text, images, etc.[6] Though the word "doomscrolling" is not found in their dictionary itself, Merriam-Webster is "watching" the term—a designation for words receiving increased use in society that do not yet meet their criteria for inclusion.[2] chose it as the top monthly trend in August 2020.[7] The Macquarie Dictionary named doomscrolling as the 2020 Committee's Choice Word of the Year.[8]

Popularity Edit

The term gained popularity in the early 2020s[1][9] through events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the George Floyd protests, the 2020 U.S. presidential election, the 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol, and the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine,[10] all of which have been noted to have exacerbated the practice of doomscrolling.[6][11][12]

Doomscrolling became widespread among Twitter users during the COVID-19 pandemic,[13] and has also been discussed in relation to the climate crisis.[14]

Explanations Edit

Negativity bias Edit

The act of doomscrolling can be attributed to the natural negativity bias people have when consuming information.[9] Negativity bias is the idea that negative events have a larger impact on one's mental well-being than good ones.[15] Jeffrey Hall, a professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, notes that due to an individual's regular state of contentment, potential threats provoke one's attention.[16] One psychiatrist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center notes that humans are "all hardwired to see the negative and be drawn to the negative because it can harm [them] physically."[17] He cites evolution as the reason for why humans seek out such negatives: if one's ancestors, for example, discovered how an ancient creature could injure them, they could avoid that fate.[18]

As opposed to primitive humans, however, most people in modern times do not realize that they are even seeking negative information. Social media algorithms heed the content users engage in and display posts similar in nature, which can aid in the act of doomscrolling.[16] As per the clinic director of the Perelman School of Medicine's Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety: "People have a question, they want an answer, and assume getting it will make them feel better... You keep scrolling and scrolling. Many think that will be helpful, but they end up feeling worse afterward."[18]

Brain anatomy Edit

Doomscrolling, the compulsion to engross oneself in negative news, may be the result of an evolutionary mechanism where humans are "wired to screen for and anticipate danger".[19] By frequently monitoring events surrounding negative headlines, staying informed may grant the feeling of being better prepared; however, prolonged scrolling may also lead to worsened mood and mental health as personal fears might seem heightened.[19]

The inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) plays an important role in information processing and integrating new information into beliefs about reality.[19][20] In the IFG, the brain "selectively filters bad news" when presented with new information as it updates beliefs.[19] When a person engages in doomscrolling, the brain may feel under threat and shut off its "bad news filter" in response.[19]

In a study where researchers manipulated the left IFG using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), patients were more likely to incorporate negative information when updating beliefs.[20] This suggests that the left IFG may be responsible for inhibiting bad news from altering personal beliefs; when participants were presented with favorable information and received TMS, the brain still updated beliefs in response to the positive news.[20] The study also suggests that the brain selectively filters information and updates beliefs in a way that reduces stress and anxiety by processing good news with higher regard (see optimistic bias).[20] Increased doomscrolling exposes the brain to greater quantities of unfavorable news and may restrict the brain's ability to embrace good news and discount bad news;[20] this can result in negative emotions that make one feel anxious, depressed, and isolated.[18]

Health effects Edit

Psychological effects Edit

Health professionals have advised that excessive doomscrolling can negatively impact existing mental health issues.[19][21][22] While the overall impact that doomscrolling has on people may vary,[23] it can often make one feel anxious, stressed, fearful, depressed, and isolated.[19]

Research Edit

Professors of psychology at the University of Sussex conducted a study in which participants watched television news consisting of "positive-, neutral-, and negative valenced material".[24][25] The study revealed that participants who watched the negative news programs showed an increase in anxiety, sadness, and catastrophic tendencies regarding personal worries.[24]

A study conducted by psychology researchers in conjunction with the Huffington Post found that participants who watched three minutes of negative news in the morning were 27% more likely to have reported experiencing a bad day six to eight hours later.[25] Comparatively, the group who watched solutions-focused news stories reported a good day 88% of the time.[25]

News avoidance Edit

Some people have begun coping with the abundance of negative news stories by avoiding news altogether. A study from 2017 to 2022 showed that news avoidance is increasing, and that 38% of people admitted to sometimes or often actively avoiding the news in 2022, up from 29% in 2017.[26] Even some journalists have admitted to avoiding the news; journalist Amanda Ripley wrote that "people producing the news themselves are struggling, and while they aren't likely to admit it, it is warping the coverage."[27] She also identified ways she believes could help fix the problem, such as intentionally adding more hope, agency, and dignity into stories so readers don't feel the helplessness which leads them to tune out entirely.[27]

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ a b Leskin P. "Staying up late reading scary news? There's a word for that: 'doomscrolling'". Business Insider. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  2. ^ a b "On 'Doomsurfing' and 'Doomscrolling'". Merriam-Webster. Archived from the original on 2020-04-24. Retrieved 2021-08-25.
  3. ^ Soroka S, Fournier P, Nir L (September 2019). "Cross-national evidence of a negativity bias in psychophysiological reactions to news". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 116 (38): 18888–18892. Bibcode:2019PNAS..11618888S. doi:10.1073/pnas.1908369116. PMC 6754543. PMID 31481621.
  4. ^ "Doomscrolling Is Slowly Eroding Your Mental Health". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  5. ^ Park CS (2015-10-02). "Applying "Negativity Bias" to Twitter: Negative News on Twitter, Emotions, and Political Learning". Journal of Information Technology & Politics. 12 (4): 342–359. doi:10.1080/19331681.2015.1100225. ISSN 1933-1681. S2CID 147342965.
  6. ^ a b c "On 'Doomsurfing' and 'Doomscrolling'". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  7. ^ "The Word Of The Year For 2020 Is ..." 2020-11-30. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  8. ^ "The Committee's Choice & People's Choice for Word of the Year 2020". Macquarie Dictionary. 2020-12-07. Archived from the original on 2014-01-14. Retrieved 2021-08-31.
  9. ^ a b Rella E (July 2020). "Why we're obsessed with reading bad news — and how to break the 'doomscrolling' habit". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  10. ^ "Obsessed? Frightened? Wakeful? War in Ukraine sparks return of doomscrolling". 6 March 2022.
  11. ^ Jennings R (2020-11-03). "Doomscrolling, explained". Vox. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  12. ^ Perrigo B. "The Doomscrolling Capital of the Internet". Time. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  13. ^ "Twitter sees record number of users during pandemic, but advertising sales slow". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  14. ^ Amanda Hess (3 February 2022). "Apocalypse When? Global Warming's Endless Scroll". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  15. ^ Baumeister RF, Bratslavsky E, Finkenauer C, Vohs KD (2001). "Bad is Stronger than Good" (PDF). Review of General Psychology. 5 (4): 323–370. doi:10.1037/1089-2680.5.4.323. ISSN 1089-2680. S2CID 13154992.
  16. ^ a b Megan Marples (26 February 2021). "Doomscrolling can steal hours of your time -- here's how to take it back". CNN. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  17. ^ Network, The Learning (2020-11-03). "'Doomscrolling'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  18. ^ a b c Miller K. "There's a Reason You Can't Stop Looking at Bad News—Here's How to Stop". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Blades R (March 2021). "Protecting the brain against bad news". CMAJ. 193 (12): E428–E429. doi:10.1503/cmaj.1095928. PMC 8096381. PMID 33753370.
  20. ^ a b c d e Sharot T, Kanai R, Marston D, Korn CW, Rees G, Dolan RJ (October 2012). "Selectively altering belief formation in the human brain". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 109 (42): 17058–62. Bibcode:2012PNAS..10917058S. doi:10.1073/pnas.1205828109. PMC 3479523. PMID 23011798.
  21. ^ Sestir MA (2020-05-29). "This is the Way the World "Friends": Social Network Site Usage and Cultivation Effects". The Journal of Social Media in Society. 9 (1): 1–21.
  22. ^ "Website reports only good news for a day, loses two thirds of its readers". The Independent. 2014-12-05. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  23. ^ "The Mean-World Syndrome". Thought Maybe. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  24. ^ a b Johnston WM, Davey GC (February 1997). "The psychological impact of negative TV news bulletins: the catastrophizing of personal worries". British Journal of Psychology. 88 ( Pt 1) (1): 85–91. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.1997.tb02622.x. PMID 9061893.
  25. ^ a b c "Consuming Negative News Can Make You Less Effective at Work". Harvard Business Review. 2015-09-14. ISSN 0017-8012. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  26. ^ "Overview and key findings of the 2022 Digital News Report". Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Retrieved 2022-07-11.
  27. ^ a b Ripley, Amanda (8 July 2022). "Opinion | I stopped reading the news. Is the problem me — or the product?". Washington Post.

External links Edit