Person scrolling on a phone.
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The internet is a great place—until it’s not. You can fall into a pit of depressing news and “hot takes.” Yet many people have a tendency to come back for more. That’s where “doomscrolling” or “doomsurfing” comes in.

A Perfect Storm of Bad Habits

You may have seen the term “doomscrolling” thrown around the internet. Essentially, doomscrolling is repeatedly doing something even though you know it has a negative effect on yourself. It’s bad for us, but we can’t stop.

More specifically, when people talk about doomscrolling, they’re referring to the habit of spending a lot of time looking at negative news headlines online. We know it’s not a good use of our time, but we keep doing it anyway. There’s a level of addiction involved.

The “scrolling” or “surfing” part of the term is directly related to apps and the internet. For example, when something bad is happening in the world, you may scroll through Twitter to read reactions. This bombardment of negativity and our tendency to keep returning to it is “doomscrolling” in a nutshell.

RELATED: What Is a "Hot Take," and Where Did the Phrase Come From?

The Origins of Doomscrolling

We don’t know exactly when the term “doomscrolling” first popped up. People generally agree it originated on Twitter, most likely around 2018 and 2019. However, the act of doomscrolling has been around for a long time—even if we didn’t have a name for it.

The term really shot into the social consciousness in early 2020 as people clamored for news about the pandemic. That news was almost always grim, but people couldn’t look away. Even when it wasn’t helpful and you didn’t really want to know all the bad things going on, it was irresistible.

Elections are another time when people have a tendency to doomscroll. These times can be very stressful. It feels like a lot is on the line and even if you may be scared to find out what’s going on, you feel the need to know. It’s like touching a hot burner on the stove. You know it’s going to hurt and you do it anyway.

Why Do We Doomscroll?

Why do we do this to ourselves? There are a few theories. One explanation is that negative events have a greater impact on our mental well-being than positive ones. Like how one mean comment can stick with us more than a dozen compliments.

We also have a compulsive need to anticipate danger. By doomscrolling, we’re essentially on the lookout for things that may harm us. To a degree, it’s good to be informed, but there is a point where it does more harm than good.

Addiction is another thing at play. Social media—which is where doomscrolling usually takes place—is designed to keep you coming back. By surfacing negative stories more often, it creates a feedback loop that traps you in a vicious cycle.

How to Stop Doomscrolling

Unfollow a Facebook user to Mute them
Khamosh Pathak / How-To Geek

The best way to stop doomscrolling is to reduce your time on the apps and websites where it happens. If Twitter is becoming a negative part of your life it might be time to uninstall the app. Accessing it through the browser may be enough of a hindrance to reducing your time on it.

Another good idea is to remove negative sources. Maybe you can’t remove Facebook or Twitter from your life, but you can unfollow people and accounts that negatively impact your mental health. Clean up your timelines and you’ll feel a lot better.

The trick is to take notice when you’re doing it. Once you start to recognize when you’re doomscrolling, it will be easier to tell yourself “okay, this is not making me feel good, I need to stop.” You’ll be happier when you do.

RELATED: How to Mute Someone on Facebook

Profile Photo for Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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