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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Corbin D.C

What is Doom scrolling?

A picture of a man doom scrolling. Oblivious to what is going on around him.
Doom Scrolling

Doom scrolling, a phenomenon that has gained prominence in recent years. It refers to the habit of endlessly scrolling through bad news on the internet despite the discomfort it causes. This behavior, exacerbated by the advent of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, has significant implications for mental health and well-being.

The term 'doom scrolling' emerged around the early 2020s, during a period marked by global upheavals such as the COVID-19 pandemic, political unrest, and climate crises. As reported in a 2020 article by Merriam-Webster, this term encapsulates the experience of many who found themselves unable to stop consuming distressing news online. The addictive nature of social media platforms, designed to keep users engaged for long periods, plays a crucial role in this behavior.

Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram employ algorithms that feed users a constant stream of content, much of which can be negative or distressing, leading to a cycle of anxiety and compulsion.

Psychological research has long indicated that humans have a negativity bias, where we pay more attention to negative information than positive.

Doom scrolling can be understood in this context. A study by the American Psychological Association in 2019 highlighted that constant exposure to negative news can lead to increased feelings of sadness, anxiety, and helplessness. This is particularly concerning given the prevalence of sensationalist and sometimes unverified information online (fake news).

The impact of doom scrolling extends beyond mental health. It can affect physical health by disrupting sleep patterns and increasing stress levels, as identified in a 2021 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with circadian rhythms, and the stress caused by negative news can lead to insomnia.

Combatting doom scrolling requires conscious effort and strategies. One approach is setting limits on social media and news consumption.

Digital wellness tools, such as screen time trackers and app blockers, can help manage online activity. Engaging in activities that promote relaxation and disconnection from digital devices, like reading, meditation, or spending time in nature, can also be beneficial.

In addition, media literacy is crucial. Understanding how to discern credible news sources and recognizing the tactics used by media to engage viewers can help mitigate the impact of negative news. Seeking out positive news and stories of human resilience and community support can provide a more balanced perspective and reduce feelings of despair.

In conclusion, while staying informed is important, it is equally crucial to recognize the potential harms of overexposure to negative news. Doom scrolling, though a relatively new term, encapsulates a significant challenge of our digital age. By being mindful of our consumption habits and taking proactive steps to manage them, we can protect our mental and physical well-being in an increasingly connected world.

I wrote this blog as it is related to another blog abou popcorn brain. Feel free to follow up with that on.


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