Doomscrolling refers to the habit of scrolling endlessly on social media like Twitter, Instagram, Reddit or Facebook feeds during dramatic events. It is the new buzzword -so subject to caution- since the beginning of the Covid-19 health crisis.
Allissa Richardson, professor of journalism at USC Annenberg in California explains that “Doomscrolling has become a way of dealing with the unknown and terrifying events”. The user of social media will tend to scroll endlessly hoping to find new information.
A natural phenomenon empowered by social networks
If we “Doomscroll”, it’s because it’s natural. In order to understand what happens during stressful times, our brain in search of information feeds itself from the media. Indeed, during containment, online media audiences have exploded. This tendency to look and dig in scary news is a sign that our minds are trying to find meaning in the world around us. That’s actually quite healthy, except that social networks complicate everything.
On Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or even TikTok, thousands of pieces of information are present. Pictures of cute cats co-exist with news articles in our feeds, with no hierarchy. As a result, we are faced with fragmented information that prevents us from reconstructing a coherent idea of current events. We thus find ourselves caught in a kind of black hole of information.
Algorithms and infinite scrolls make it worse, indeed we find ourselves locked in a bubble of bad news and lulled into the illusion that there’s always new information that will appear and finally shed light on the situation.
Excessive Doomscrolling can have a negative impact on mental health.
Is there a solution to avoid the anxiety, stress and insomnia that Doomscrolling can produce?
A University of Copenhagen study published in 2016, for example, has shown that users who spend more time just reading and consuming content passively without starting conversations are more likely to develop more stress than proactive people when consuming content. Being actors, not just content consumers, can put us on the right track.
Another precautionary measure is to diversify the applications we use, prioritizing applications that are not related to information content. Besides, being aware of the hours we spend online and the activities we do is also a solution so that we can limit the amount of time we spend on information content applications.
Maintaining critical thinking skills and mental stability may be much more important than we think, as applications that help us get rid of our phones begin to gain ground and social networks begin to take note.