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Doomscrolling (also known as doomsurfing)[1] is the act of consuming a large quantity of negative online news at once. Mental health experts have stated that the practice can be detrimental to mental health.[2][3][4][5][6]



Doomscrolling can be defined as "an excessive amount of screen time devoted to the absorption of dystopian news."[7] According to finance reporter Karen Ho, the term is thought to have originated in October 2018 on the social media site Twitter.[8][9] 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.”[1]

In common parlance, the word doom connotes darkness and evil, referring to one’s fate (cf. damnation).[10] 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.[10] Both surf and scroll suggest the habit of not staying on one site or piece of content (e.g. articles or images) for long.


The word gained popularity[7][11] during the COVID-19 pandemic, the George Floyd protests, and the 2020 US presidential election, as these events have been noted to have exacerbated the practice of doomscrolling.[9][12][13]

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.[10] chose it as the top monthly trend in August 2020.[14] The Macquarie Dictionary named doomscrolling as the 2020 Committee's Choice Word of the Year.[15]

Psychological effects[edit]

Health professionals have advised that excessive doomscrolling can negatively impact existing mental health issues.[3][4][16][17] While the overall impact that doomscrolling has on people may vary,[1] it can often make one feel anxious, depressed, and isolated.[6]

Doomscrolling can lead to similar long-term effects on mental health as the mean world syndrome. To prevent such consequences, mental health experts have stated that society must "mount interventions that address users’ behaviors and guide the design of social media platforms in ways that improve mental health and well-being.”[1]

The reason why people are drawn to bad/morbid news, according to a research scientist at the T. H. Chan School of Public Health, is that, “humans...have a ‘natural’ tendency to pay more attention to negative news.”[1] More specifically, 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.”[6] 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. As per the clinic director of the Perlman 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]

It has been noted, however, that doomscrolling has been a helpful tool for active political engagement. The research of Allissa Richardson, a professor at the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, has found that "[d]oomscrolling for black people works in the inverse." Richardson explains that black people are "actually trying to look for something separate and apart from bad things...For many nonblack Americans, this has been an incredibly enriching time, and doomscrolling for them is a deep dive into the things maybe they weren’t educated well about in the first place or maybe did have an inkling about but were ignoring.”[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Doomscrolling Is Slowly Eroding Your Mental Health". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  2. ^ What is Doomscrolling? Plus, How to Stop It|Shape
  3. ^ a b "Stop doomscrolling – the onslaught of bad news is only making you miserable". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  4. ^ a b "'Doomscrolling' is bad for your mental health. Do this instead". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  5. ^ Network, The Learning (2020-11-03). "'Doomscrolling'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "There's a Reason You Can't Stop Looking at Bad News—Here's How to Stop". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  7. ^ a b Leskin, Paige. "Staying up late reading scary news? There's a word for that: 'doomscrolling'". Business Insider. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  8. ^ "Your 'Doomscrolling' Breeds Anxiety. Here's How To Stop The Cycle". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  9. ^ a b Jennings, Rebecca (2020-11-03). "Doomscrolling, explained". Vox. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  10. ^ a b c "On 'Doomsurfing' and 'Doomscrolling'". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  11. ^ "Why we're obsessed with reading bad news — and how to break the 'doomscrolling' habit". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  12. ^ "On 'Doomsurfing' and 'Doomscrolling'". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  13. ^ "The Doomscrolling Capital of the Internet". Time. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  14. ^ "Word of the Year". Retrieved 2020-12-17.
  15. ^ "Macquarie Dictionary". Retrieved 2020-12-15.
  16. ^ "What is Doomscrolling?". SOVA. 2020-06-18. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  17. ^ "'Doomscrolling' chosen as New Zealand word of the year for 2020". the Guardian. 2020-12-21. Retrieved 2021-01-07.

External links[edit]