“Doomscrolling,” also known as “doomsurfing,” refers to the practice of surfing or scrolling through bad news headlines on the internet, even if those stories create unpleasant or unhealthy feelings.
Google reported a spike in searches for the term this past July.
“It’s definitely come into more popular usage in the last five months or so,” said Ben Grosser, an artist and professor at the University of Illinois. He first noticed his own doomscrolling in March, amid the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Once we had shelter-in-place here in the state of Illinois, I found myself sleeping even less than usual. … Staying up late into the night, reading the news, waking up earlier than I intended, and immediately going back to the news. Such that I was getting maybe getting four hours of sleep at night.”
As part of an effort to cut down on his own habit, Grosser created The Endless Doomscroller. It’s a website designed to look like the front page of a common social media platform, such as Facebook’s “News Feed.” But all The Endless Doomscroller shows is an infinite scroll of generic, troubling headlines.
Posts on The Endless Doomscroller include: “Fear Persists,” “The Threat Is Existential” and “Experts Say It’s Worse Than We Thought.” What’s more, it constantly refreshes, so visitors can never reach the bottom of the page.
“[You] can scroll as fast or as slow as you want, and you can scroll as long as you want,” said Grosser. “But those headlines just will endlessly appear.”
Grosser said the website’s posts aren’t intended to reference any specific event or news story. Rather, they’re supposed to highlight the act of doomscrolling.
“If we distill down the activity to its bare essentials, then it helps us reflect on what it is we’re doing.”
He said his goals are to help people think about their personal habits online and also draw attention to how social media companies keep visitors engaged.
“We have software platforms that are designed to be addictive — designed to keep us focused on them. And that is now combined with an international populace that is, in many ways, stuck online as their primary mode of interacting with other humans right now.”
Grosser said he hopes his project helps people examine their social media habits more critically.
“Perhaps the only way out of too much doomscrolling is endless doomscrolling.”
Listen to ABC’s Mike Dobuski reporting for ABC News Radio’s “Perspective” podcast: