The darkly soothing compulsion of 'doomscrolling'

The darkly soothing(ˈso͞oT͟HiNG) compulsion(kəmˈpəlSHən) of ‘doomscrolling’

Why does endlessly looking for bad news feel so strangely gratifying(ˈɡradəˌfīiNG) – and can we break the habit?

By Jessica Klein

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Emily Bernstein(ˈbərnstēn, ˌbərnˈstīn), 29, has been scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. As a Los Angeles-based comedy writer, Bernstein needs to read through Twitter and news sites for material. But it’s not just her job that keeps her reading: it’s the compulsion of ‘doomscrolling’ – trawling(trôl) through feeds without pause, no matter how bad the news is or how many trolls’(trōl) comments she reads.

“I found myself in bed at night scrolling news sites and knowing this is not healthy for me… so why am I doing this?” says Bernstein.

It’s a question many doomscrollers have been asking themselves. There are multiple reasons why the urge(ərj) to read may be so strong: the feeling of safety in knowledge, especially during difficult times; the design of social-media platforms that constantly refresh and boost the loudest voices; and, of course, the human fascination(ˌfasəˈnāSH(ə)n) aspect. “It’s like not being able to look away when you see a car accident(ˈaksədənt),” says Bernstein.