Most likely, you've reached the bottom of the rabbit hole and are no longer avidly scrolling through blogs, news feeds, and videos bemoaning the skyrocketing gas prices, the impending recession, self-serving politicians, or the next devastating epidemic. Doomscrolling is the name of this obsessional, time-consuming pastime. Additionally, experts caution that you should cut back on your habit because spending so much time reading about doom and gloom might make you pretty disagreeable.
Doomscrolling, as defined by Jacob T. Fisher, assistant professor in the College of Media at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a member of the Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology and the Illinois Informatics Program, is a fancy term for "a state in which someone feels an almost obsessive drive to continuously scroll through their social media feeds, paying attention to distressing, depressing, or generally negative information."
Doomscrolling may contain both good and terrible news, but, according to Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Mental Drive, "it's usually the bad, negative, tragic or sad news that keeps us scrolling." Although the exact beginnings of doomscrolling are unknown, "it's pretty generally agreed on that it first started to become popular on Twitter in the late 2010s, but didn't break out into general usage until the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic," Fisher says. "In fact, we will bypass positive news when we are in a doomscrolling state of mind." According to him, it's not a coincidence that the phrase "doomscrolling" is becoming more popular at the same time that social media algorithms are being developed to better analyze user viewing patterns.
Why Do We Keep Doing It?
The idea of doomscrolling is not new. Do you still recall September 11th? Millions of Americans watched the terrorist strikes against the United States unfold transfixed to their screens. And what motorist can resist coming to a complete stop on the freeway to inspect the wreckage of a collision? According to Klapow, top news frequently follows the adage "if it bleeds it leads." However, modern smartphones alert us to disasters in real time and offer us access to running commentary and news video reels that are available around-the-clock.
What inspires our curiosity? It originated from a very basic, evolutionary behavior, claims Klapow. Our brains are programmed to be curious about things we see as unpleasant so that we can learn from them on a subconscious level, he says. "We are driven into sad, awful, scary and the tragic news because it serves as a protective purpose." According to Fisher, social media businesses have realized this and developed algorithms to keep users scrolling since the more you look at a particular type of information, the more likely it is that you will see that content in your feed as you continue scrolling.
Is It An Obsession or Addiction?
Rarely is doomscrolling a deliberate act. According to Klapow, it's more of an obsession than an addiction. Obsessions are characterized as ritualistic practices that permeate daily life. They typically stem from the worry that unpleasant things might happen if the routine isn't followed. What may frighten doomscrollers? Doomscrolling, according to a University of Florida study, is frequently linked to fear of missing out, which makes people want to be constantly connected to their smartphones.
Doomscrolling may generate anxiety, but the researchers weren't really concerned on the emotional effects of the movement. However, they did imply that worry and doomscrolling can reinforce one another. However, spending hours immersed in unfavorable material can damage your emotional health, causing "negative affect, cynicism about the world, aggravation and wrath, and an overall emotional state of negativity that often persists for hours or days after doomscrolling," according to Klapow. It distorts our vision of the world by luring us into the single aspect of it that is actually real—the bad aspect.
How Do We Break This Bad Habit?
Remember that doomscrolling is an unintentional action. Klapow says, "We need to be jolted out of it. Doomscrolling hypnosis can be broken by setting a loud alarm that limits your scrolling time or leaving your smartphone in another room. "Sounds, competing behaviors, changes in our routine — all will help prevent the situation where we find ourselves an hour later having scrolled and scrolled and scrolled." Fisher claims that there is little proof that these strategies will genuinely aid in habit reversal.
It's vital to keep in mind that social media platforms are meticulously created (by some of the world's brightest and highest paid individuals) to be attention-grabbing and attention-keeping, so it could seem like you're up against a wall. What is the remedy? He continues, "I think social media and other major tech businesses have a responsibility to make sure that their users can organize their online selves in a way that gives them control over their attention and focus on this that matter to them. It's vital to recognize that doomscrolling is a natural byproduct of the financial paradigm that underpins social media, even though it is sometimes framed as an individual duty, similar to other potentially harmful information-seeking and sharing habits online.
Another suggestion is to add a few mobile games to your phone's home screen and use those instead of your news or social media apps. This prevented a Wired journalist from experiencing doomscrolling and turning into yet another enormous time waster.