Stop the (Doom) Scroll

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    Doomscrolling can become an addiction.
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    Once you start reading bad news, it can be hard to stop.
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    Reese Schonfeld, President of CNN, and Reynelda Muse, weekend anchorwoman, stand on a set at the broadcast center in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 31, 1980. The network began its 24-hour-per-day news broadcasts later that week. (AP/Joe Holloway)
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    Social media platforms are designed to keep users glued to their screens. (AP/Richard Drew)
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Are you addicted to bad news?

That might sound strange. After all, who likes bad news? But over the last two years, a new obsession has crept into culture. It’s so widespread that the Oxford English Dictionary named it the 2020 word of the year: doomscrolling.

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, bad news abounded. It seemed like something else went wrong every day. The virus spread. Restrictions increased. Political tensions grew. People wanted the latest updates (or to vociferously join in the latest argument). So they grabbed their phones and started scrolling.

And scrolling. And scrolling.

“Doomscrolling” means spending too much time scrolling through bad news online. Once you start reading bad news, it can be hard to stop. Social media makes news updates almost instant, and social media platforms are designed to keep users fixated on those screens. For many, doomscrolling has become part of the daily routine.

But for some, it’s more than that. Doomscrolling can turn into an addiction. According to experts who study brain chemistry, refreshing your feed can have the same brain effect as gambling in a casino. (Pull that lever! Spin that wheel! Roll those dice just one more time!)

Over the last century, news has grown available faster and faster. People once learned the news from newspapers. A whole day or more might pass before you heard about the latest disaster. The first news broadcast hit radio waves in 1920, and television soon followed. Then CNN introduced the first all-day news channel in 1980. Suddenly, viewers could tune in to the news at any time of day.

Fast forward to 2022. We have the internet in our backpacks or back pockets, updating in real time every second. Bad news has never been more available.

Why do we doomscroll in the first place? A study from the University of Florida suggests it’s related to anxiety and fear of missing out. (This condition has earned its own slang acronym: FOMO.) No one wants to be the last to know the latest! 

Doomscrolling can also stem from a healthy desire to empathize. We want to know what’s going on because we care. But consuming too much bad news helps nobody—it only hurts ourselves.

The Bible tells us not to be anxious about anything. It shouldn’t surprise us to see bad news scrolling across our screens. We live in a world sick with sin. But we also know a God who holds the whole world in His hands.

Why? Bad news can become an addiction, and technology can make it worse. It helps to become aware of our habits and their root causes. When we trust God, we don’t need to feel anxious about the world.