A new University of Florida study has found that “doomscrolling” — a term used to describe the concept of binging on negative news — is a new and unique behavior, and not just another trendy, clickbaity phrase.
The study, which was published on Monday in the American Psychological Association’s Technology, Mind, and Behavior journal, also developed a technique to measure doomscrolling, paving the way for researchers to further investigate the concept and make sense of people’s obsessive focus on negative news.
UF advertising researchers Benjamin K. Johnson, Bhakti Sharma and Susanna S. Lee set out to determine if doomscrolling was just a new name for an existing issue. The term is thought to have originated in 2018 on Twitter, gaining popularity in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It starts when users of social media want to stay up-to-date with the latest news — specifically negative news. Over time, however, it turns into compulsive online scrolling for negative information, according to the study’s findings.
A key purpose of the research was to design and assess a survey scale that could measure doomscrolling. Results showed that the measure had good accuracy and that a doomscroller is more than just someone who is interested in remaining informed.
“It’s this obsession with trying to make sense of the crisis or all of our crises,” Johnson said. “It’s the combination of living through a crisis and having a smartphone with a newsfeed that never ends. It just keeps going. So, we keep scrolling.”
The study also found that there are no ideological differences between doomscrollers; they are both left- and right-leaning. But men and young people were more likely to engage in the behavior than women and older adults.
“It was a surprising finding,” Sharma said. “I didn’t even think gender would be a factor.”