Doomscrolling

Last updated

Doomscrolling or Doomsurfing is the act of spending an excessive amount of screen time devoted to the absorption of negative news. [1] [2] Increased consumption of predominantly negative news may result in harmful psychophysiological responses in some. [3]

Contents

History

Origins

According to finance reporter Karen Ho, the term is thought to have originated in October 2018 on the social media site Twitter. [4] [5] However, the word may have earlier origins, and the phenomenon itself predates the coining of the term. [6]

The practice of doomscrolling can be compared to an older phenomenon from the 1970s called the mean world syndrome: "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.” [7] Studies show that seeing upsetting news leads people to seek out more information on the topic, [8] creating a self-perpetuating cycle.

In common parlance, the word doom connotes darkness and evil, referring to one’s fate (cf. damnation). [9] In the early days of the Internet, surfing was a common verb used in reference to browsing the Internet; similarly, the word scrolling refers to sliding through text, images, etc. [9] Both surf and scroll suggest the habit of not staying on one site or piece of content (e.g. articles or images) for long.

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] Dictionary.com chose it as the top monthly trend in August 2020. [10] The Macquarie Dictionary named doomscrolling as the 2020 Committee's Choice Word of the Year. [11]

Popularity

The term gained popularity [1] [12] during the COVID-19 pandemic, the George Floyd protests, the 2020 US presidential election, and the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol as these events have been noted to have exacerbated the practice of doomscrolling. [5] [9] [13]

Doomscrolling became widespread during the COVID-19 pandemic and the imposition of related lockdowns, because there was a lack of new information being published about the virus and necessary precautions. [14] This “obstructed flow of COVID-19 data'' was in part because of constraints put on scientists and journalists because of lockdown restrictions. [14] Social media boomed as people had more time due to lockdown and were looking for updates on COVID-19. [15] With a lack of reliable new COVID-19 data on their dashboards, many users instead found inflammatory ‘fake news’ while scrolling. [16] The self-perpetuating cycle of negative news was widespread enough that the term soared in popularity at this time, especially on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram.

Explanations

Negativity bias

The act of doomscrolling can be attributed to the natural negativity bias people have when consuming information. [12] Negativity bias is the idea that negative events have a larger impact on one’s mental well-being than good ones. [17] 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. [18]  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.” [19] 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. [6]

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. [18] 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.” [6]

Brain anatomy

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”. [20] 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. [20]

The inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) plays an important role in information processing and integrating new information into beliefs about reality. [20] [21] In the IFG, the brain “selectively filters bad news” when presented with new information as it updates beliefs. [20] When a person engages in doomscrolling, the brain may feel under threat and shut off its “bad news filter” in response. [20]

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. [21] 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. [21] 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). [21] 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; [21] this can result in negative emotions that make one feel anxious, depressed, and isolated. [6]

Health effects

Psychological effects

Health professionals have advised that excessive doomscrolling can negatively impact existing mental health issues. [20] [22] [23] [24] While the overall impact that doomscrolling has on people may vary, [25] it can often make one feel anxious, stressed, fearful, depressed, and isolated. [22] [26] Individuals who suffer with cognitive distortion can experience an increase in ruminative thinking and panic attacks due to doomscrolling. [26] Studies also suggest a connection between consumption of bad news with higher levels of anxiety, depression, stress, and even symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). [20]

Research

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”. [27] [28] The study revealed that participants who watched the negative news programs showed an increase in anxiety, sadness, and catastrophic tendencies regarding personal worries. [27]

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. [28] Comparatively, the group who watched solutions-focused news stories reported a good day 88% of the time. [28]

Physical effects

Clinical psychologist, Dr. Carla Marie Manly suggested that for some people, doomscrolling can be addictive, creating a feeling of safety and security during uncertain times. [29] Experts also say doomscrolling can disrupt sleep patterns, lower attentiveness, and cause overeating. [26] Clinicians found that fear-based media can also weaken a person’s ability to process trauma. Deborah Serani, a professor at the Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies at Adelphi University says this type of media triggers a defensive operation, more specifically, she found that the first line of defense is encapsulation. During encapsulation, a person “attempts to enclose or seal off representations of the trauma”, resulting in denial or disavowal. Experts describe the phenomenon similar to the act of “shutting out”, and can result in fatigue, flat speech, and cognitive decline. [26]

See also

Related Research Articles

Media bias is the bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media in the selection of many events and stories that are reported and how they are covered. The term "media bias" implies a pervasive or widespread bias contravening the standards of journalism, rather than the perspective of an individual journalist or article. The direction and degree of media bias in various countries is widely disputed.

Cognitive bias Systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment

A cognitive bias is a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. Individuals create their own "subjective reality" from their perception of the input. An individual's construction of reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behavior in the world. Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality.

In psychology, a mood is an affective state. In contrast to emotions or feelings, moods are less specific, less intense and less likely to be provoked or instantiated by a particular stimulus or event. Moods are typically described as having either a positive or negative valence. In other words, people usually talk about being in a good mood or a bad mood. There are many different factors that influence mood, and these can lead to positive or negative effects on mood.

Misinformation is false, inaccurate, or misleading information that is communicated regardless of an intention to deceive. Examples of misinformation are false rumors, insults, pranks, and misleading use of facts. Disinformation is a subset of misinformation that is deliberately deceptive. News parody or satire can become misinformation if it is believed to be credible and communicated as if it were true. Misinformation and disinformation have often been associated with the concept of fake news, which some scholars define as "fabricated information that mimics news media content in form but not in organizational process or intent".

Choice-supportive bias or post-purchase rationalization is the tendency to retroactively ascribe positive attributes to an option one has selected and/or to demote the forgone options. It is part of cognitive science, and is a distinct cognitive bias that occurs once a decision is made. For example, if a person chooses option A instead of option B, they are likely to ignore or downplay the faults of option A while amplifying or ascribing new negative faults to option B. Conversely, they are also likely to notice and amplify the advantages of option A and not notice or de-emphasize those of option B.

Attentional bias refers to how a person's perception is affected by selective factors in their attention. Attentional biases may explain an individual's failure to consider alternative possibilities when occupied with an existing train of thought. For example, cigarette smokers have been shown to possess an attentional bias for smoking-related cues around them, due to their brain's altered reward sensitivity. Attentional bias has also been associated with clinically relevant symptoms such as anxiety and depression.

Social comparison bias is the tendency to have feelings of dislike and competitiveness with someone that is seen as physically or mentally better than oneself.

Problematic social media use proposed medical diagnosis related to overuse of social media

Psychological or behavioral dependence on social media platforms can result in significant impairment in an individual's function in various life domains over a prolonged period. This and other relationships between digital media use and mental health have been considerably researched, debated, and discussed among experts in several disciplines, and have generated controversy in medical, scientific, and technological communities. Research suggests that it affects women and girls more than boys and men and that it varies according to the social media platform used. Such disorders can be diagnosed when an individual engages in online activities at the cost of fulfilling daily responsibilities or pursuing other interests, and without regard for the negative consequences.

The fading affect bias, more commonly known as FAB, is a psychological phenomenon in which memories associated with negative emotions tend to be forgotten more quickly than those associated with positive emotions. It is important to note that FAB only refers to the feelings one has associated with the memories and not the content of the memories themselves. Early research studied FAB retrospectively, or through personal reflection, which brought about some criticism because retrospective analysis can be affected by subjective retrospective biases. However, new research using non-retrospective recall studies have found evidence for FAB., and the phenomenon has become largely accepted.

Our World in Data Website that presents data and statistics of socially relevant topics

Our World in Data (OWID) is a scientific online publication that focuses on large global problems such as poverty, disease, hunger, climate change, war, existential risks, and inequality. It is a project of the Global Change Data Lab, a registered charity in England and Wales, and founded by Max Roser, a social historian and development economist. The research team is based at the University of Oxford.

Economic anxiety is the state of concern about the future of one's economic prospects. Economic anxiety can increase due to loss of household income or decreased purchasing power, causing affected individuals to self-report having more issues with societal structure and a lower quality of life. Anxiety occurs when the idea of a situation is regarded as highly threatening, unpleasant and doubtful, motivating individuals to stay away from insecurity by creating an environment that is safe in order to protect themselves and their families from threatening groups and events. Events in the life of an individual such as unemployment, divorce, or a serious illness can also trigger decreased income, and by result, economic anxiety. Research has shown that high levels of economic insecurity exist among low-income households, and that economic anxiety has a positive correlation with growing economic inequality in the United States. This was due to larger family instability and volatility in income in the United States in the 2000s as compared to 1960s. Economic insecurity could originate from the perception one holds towards social stratification and changes in their economic status. Furthermore, single-parent families are more vulnerable to losing jobs than two-parent families because it takes time to digest and absorb the shock of uncertainty. Moreover, economic insecurity is associated with suicide/ suicidal thoughts, heart diseases, psychological disorders and physiological illness and the reason why this could be triggered could be because of economic policies.

Eviction in the United States

Eviction in the United States refers to the removal of tenants from the location in which they are residing. Within the United States, eviction rates vary heavily by locality. However, historically, there have been trends in domestic eviction patterns during certain time periods such as during the Great Depression and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elaine Fox is a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Oxford Centre for Emotions and Affective Neuroscience (OCEAN) at the University of Oxford. Her research considers the science of emotion and what makes some people more resilient than others. As of 2019 Fox serves as the Mental Health Networks Impact and Engagement Coordinator for United Kingdom Research and Innovation.

Media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic Aspect of viral outbreak

Media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic has varied by country, time period and media outlet. News media has simultaneously kept viewers informed about current events related to the pandemic, and contributed to misinformation or fake news.

Mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic Psychological aspect of viral outbreak

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the mental health of people around the world. Similar to past respiratory viral epidemics, such as SARS, MERS, and influenza, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in different population groups, including healthcare workers, patients and quarantined individuals. The Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee of the United Nations recommends that the core principles of mental health support during an emergency are "do no harm, promote human rights and equality, use participatory approaches, build on existing resources and capacities, adopt multi-layered interventions and work with integrated support systems." COVID-19 is affecting people's social connectedness, their trust in people and institutions, their jobs and incomes, as well as imposing a huge toll in terms of anxiety and worry.

The term "anthropause" refers to a global reduction in modern human activity, especially travel, that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in March and April 2020. It was coined by a team of researchers in June 2020 in an article discussing the possible impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on wildlife. The scientific journal that published the commentary, Nature Ecology and Evolution, selected the topic for the cover of its September issue, with the headline “Welcome to the anthropause”. Oxford Languages highlighted the word "anthropause" in its 2020 Words of an Unprecedented Year report.

Pandemic fatigue Psychological phenomenon

Pandemic fatigue is the state of being worn out by recommended precautions and restrictions relating to a pandemic, often due to the length of the restrictions and lack of activities for one to engage in, resulting in boredom, depression, psychic numbing, and other issues, thereby leading one to abandoning these precautions and risk catching the disease. Pandemic fatigue can be responsible for an increased number of cases.

Glossary of the COVID-19 pandemic Glossary article for the COVID-19 pandemic

The glossary of the COVID-19 pandemic is a list of definitions of terms relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has created and popularized many terms relating to disease and videoconferencing.

COVID-19 pandemic in popular culture References to the COVID-19 pandemic in popular culture

References to the COVID-19 pandemic in popular culture began while the pandemic was still underway. Despite the ravaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it brought people together through modes of entertainment that facilitated the growth and development of pop culture.

Impact of COVID-19 on neurological, psychological and other mental health outcomes

While acute symptoms of COVID-19 act on the lungs, there is increasing evidence suggesting that COVID-19 causes both acute and chronic neurologicalor psychological symptoms. Caregivers of COVID-19 patients also show a higher than average prevalence of mental health concerns. These symptoms result from multiple different factors.

References

  1. 1 2 Leskin P. "Staying up late reading scary news? There's a word for that: 'doomscrolling'". Business Insider. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  2. 1 2 "On 'Doomsurfing' and 'Doomscrolling'". Merriam-Webster . 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. doi:10.1073/pnas.1908369116. PMC   6754543 . PMID   31481621.
  4. Garcia-Navarro L. "Your 'Doomscrolling' Breeds Anxiety. Here's How To Stop The Cycle". NPR.org. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  5. 1 2 Jennings R (2020-11-03). "Doomscrolling, explained". Vox. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Miller K. "There's a Reason You Can't Stop Looking at Bad News—Here's How to Stop". Health.com. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  7. "Doomscrolling Is Slowly Eroding Your Mental Health". Wired. ISSN   1059-1028 . Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  8. 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.
  9. 1 2 3 "On 'Doomsurfing' and 'Doomscrolling'". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  10. "The Dictionary.com Word Of The Year For 2020 Is ..." Dictionary.com. 2020-11-30. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  11. "The Committee's Choice & People's Choice for Word of the Year 2020". Macquarie Dictionary . 2020-12-07. Retrieved 2021-08-31.
  12. 1 2 Rella E (July 2020). "Why we're obsessed with reading bad news — and how to break the 'doomscrolling' habit". www.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  13. Perrigo B. "The Doomscrolling Capital of the Internet". Time. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  14. 1 2 Milan S (2021). COVID-19 from the margins pandemic invisibilities, policies and resistance in the datafied society. Amsterdam. ISBN   978-94-92302-73-1. OCLC   1245471697.
  15. "Twitter sees record number of users during pandemic, but advertising sales slow". Washington Post. ISSN   0190-8286 . Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  16. "Americans who get news mostly through social media are least likely to follow coronavirus coverage". Pew Research Center's Journalism Project. 2020-03-25. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  17. Baumeister RF, Bratslavsky E, Finkenauer C, Vohs KD (2001). "Bad is Stronger than Good". Review of General Psychology. 5 (4): 323–370. doi:10.1037/1089-2680.5.4.323. ISSN   1089-2680. S2CID   13154992.
  18. 1 2 Megan Marples. "Doomscrolling can steal hours of your time -- here's how to take it back". CNN. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  19. Network, The Learning (2020-11-03). "'Doomscrolling'". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  20. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Blades R (March 2021). "Protecting the brain against bad news". CMAJ. 193 (12): E428–E429. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.1095928 . PMID   33753370.
  21. 1 2 3 4 5 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.
  22. 1 2 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.
  23. "Website reports only good news for a day, loses two thirds of its readers". The Independent. 2014-12-05. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  24. Dörnemann A, Boenisch N, Schommer L, Winkelhorst L, Wingen T (2021-03-18). "How do Good and Bad News Impact Mood During the Covid-19 Pandemic? The Role of Similarity". doi:10.31219/osf.io/sy2kd.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  25. "The Mean-World Syndrome". Thought Maybe. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  26. 1 2 3 4 "'Doomscrolling' During COVID-19: What It Does and How to Avoid It". Healthline. 2020-07-26. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  27. 1 2 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.
  28. 1 2 3 "Consuming Negative News Can Make You Less Effective at Work". Harvard Business Review. 2015-09-14. ISSN   0017-8012 . Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  29. 'Doomscrolling' During COVID-19: What It Does and How to Avoid It: Healthline