“Doomscrolling and doomsurfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing.”

— EndocrineWeb

While most so-called doomscrolling takes place on social media, it seems that these days the simple act of following even legitimate news outlets amounts to doomscrolling.

Consider: Shootings, murders, fires, floods, robberies, burglaries, accidents, landslides, avalanches, auto accidents, rapes, assaults, epidemics, car-jackings, blizzards, hit-and-runs, carbon monoxide poisonings, explosions, wars, sexism, racism, tribalism, xenophobia, and just about every story coming out of Washington. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of categories, but you get the idea.

“If it bleeds, it leads.”

Widely attributed to Eric Pooley

Originally this described yellow or sensationalist journalism. These days, regrettably, it seems to describe virtually all news outlets. I’m no longer sure if this is the fault of the media or a really sad commentary on today’s society. Either way, I feel that in my ongoing attempt to be an informed citizen, I have, unavoidably, become a doomscroller.

12 thoughts on “Doomscroller

  1. OK: think of an ‘opposing’ list of noos, Susan .. Like, maybe, parties, music events, great new movies, walks in wonderful woods, new cars that do what they claim, satisfying designs of .. anything !, acts of bravery, glorious animals, good crop results ..
    And then think what news outlets of all kinds would read like if all of such topics were reported on.
    Great ? Boring ? Meh ?
    I reckon they’d all claim that they DO report on stuff like this, in between the doomsday items, and that might even be true. It’s just that we’ve become so inured to DD that we kind of expect it. Even when the sports sections feature ACL damage/s more than winning goals we don’t protest.
    Not that protesting about print media will ever achieve anything .. and I hold them responsible for a very large proportion of the world’s ills in general !!!

    1. Oh I know the good stuff is in there, most likely in local news, but having to wade through so much bad stuff to find it gets depressing. And it certainly seems there’s far more bad than good.

  2. It’s a sad commentary on people. The media is just capitalizing people’s basic instinct to gravitate towards the disaster. Personally I blame evolution. I think we could somehow blame this on evolution – if the whole tribe sees a disastrous event happen and response to it, the more likely the tribe will survive (ie, fire, flood, wolves, etc). People who react to disasters are more likely to survive, etc, etc.

    I think I’ll do a whole study on the matter – I’m sure the government will give me a large grant to figure this out.

    On a personal note, I am trying to break the doomscroller cycle by being a “cutescroller” that is searching the internet for pictures and videos of kitties, puppies and other furry cuteness. … 🙂

    1. I do love furry cuteness, but you won’t see it if you’re looking for the important news of the day. I think money more than evolutionary instinct drives the emphasis on sensational news.

  3. My biggest complaint with TV news is the tendency of the reporters (and directors) to add stereotypical emotion laden inflections to what should be a simple news reading.

    That and stupid reporter questions. Like… asking a 6 year old Ukrainian girl how did it feel when the Russian missile killed your 16 year old brother. Someone should have shot the imbecile.

    1. Simple, straight-forward, factual news is what I was taught in J-school. But these days they teach advocacy journalism (ie, biased, slanted, with an obvious point of view) rather than neutral reporting. Playing to your target audience gets more eyes and advertising revenue.

  4. As a former journalist, I want to partly defend the profession. News is what is out of the ordinary, so no one will report that the weather is calm. We only hear about tornadoes, floods, etc. At this point, however, a news report about an honest and decent politician might be considered newsworthy. And I sense that the news media is getting the message that people need uplifting stories once and a while, as I’m seeing more of those type.

    1. We have a local show that emphasizes informative and/or uplifting stories, and I watch it every day. And this morning I enjoyed watching a local reporter at a sledding hill interviewing the kids and their parents, sledding down the hill himself, etc. Over a period of an hour or more they cut back to him for more fun. The main news was our heavy snow last night, but the reporter with the kids, being a kid himself, was worth watching. If you find that story about an honest, decent politician, let me know!

    1. I learned about the distortion many years ago when my editor-in-chief was in Tokyo or someplace in the Far East. There were widespread reports about terrible riots there and I was worried sick about his safety. When he got home he told me the riots were limited to just a few blocks far from where he was staying. And those pictures we’ve all seen of crowds pulling down the statue of Saddam Hussein? It looked like there were hundreds of people there. But I was watching it live and there were only a few dozen, helped by US troops with a heavy military vehicle. So much distortion. So little attempt to be accurate instead of sensational. But sensational sells.

  5. I too am a doomscroller, motive being curiosity. There’s some shadenfreude in it, but that could also be viewed as thankfulness I suppose. I think Kathy Kaiser has the right take on the news.

    1. Yep, curiosity drives me too. As soon as I’ve poured my morning coffee, I turn on the news. It’s not always all bad, but yes, mostly. Kathy explains it well. I’m not a doomscroller by choice, but by circumstance. If all the important news is bad that day, then that’s what I ingest that day. Bad news is still better than ignorance.

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