Those who spend their days glued to cellphones have often found themselves endlessly scrolling through negative news. Stories about health, crimes, disasters, etc, leave us in despair, especially during the current Coronavirus pandemic. This obsessive tendency is called doomscrolling or doomsurfing.
Doomscrolling meaning and origin
Doomscrolling is the activity in which we become addicted to negative news found online despite getting depressed because of it. The term was first noticed by Karen Ho, a finance reporter for Quartz, in an October 2018 Twitter post as noted in an NPR article.
this is the earliest reference I can find of the term "doomscrolling" on Twitter, well before the pandemic pic.twitter.com/mlOmP74Mio— Karen K. Ho (Doomscrolling Reminder Lady) (@karenkho) July 15, 2020
Why we doomscroll?
Doomscrolling may have its roots in a psychological principle called the negativity bias, a survival instinct in both humans and animals. According to a study, people are wired to respond more or be affected by negative incidents than positive ones.
Our future behaviour is shaped by our past negative experiences. Reading news helps us be alert about possible threats. Too much negative news, however, becomes harmful.
Why is doomscrolling harmful?
Scrolling through endless negative content on news outlets and social media makes us depressed, restless and anxious. Our day-to-day activities get affected, our energy levels and enthusiasm drops as we try to make sense of the negativity. We keep going back for more negativity in a desperate search for hope amid the darkness. It becomes a vicious cycle and affects our health.
People are dying in large numbers and families are forced to get separated to prevent infection. Social gatherings are advised against and conversations between people have become limited to phone calls or video chats. Naturally, we are alert all the time. While there are hopes in the form of vaccines, there are fears of a mutated coronavirus. So, we keep surfing online, reading stories about the pandemic, which raises our anxiety.
How can we avoid doomscrolling?
Keeping ourselves engaged through constructive activities is the best antidote to doomscrolling. Physical exercises, reading a book, watching a film and listening to music can help us relieve stress. Writing poetry, painting, sculpting can also keep us away from obsessive scrolling.