Staying up late reading scary news? There's a word for that: 'doomscrolling'

AP Photo/Hans PenninkNew York state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie looks at his computer screen.
  • The coronavirus outbreak has led millions to spend their days at home under quarantine, and rely on the internet for communication with the outside world and entertainment to pass the time.
  • Many of us have found ourselves navigating social platforms and news sites detailing death and destruction, while our eyes glaze over and our minds fail to absorb the information.
  • There’s now a term for that mindless habit: doomscrolling.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Dragging a bit today because you stayed up too late reading about all the gloomy implications of the coronavirus pandemic? A term has now emerged to describe this self-destructive behaviour: doomscrolling.

Since my life under lockdown began more than a month ago, my daily routine consists of watching Netflix, working from my laptop, going on TikTok, and spending hours in a semicomatose state swiping through tweets and news stories about coronavirus.

I am far from the only one who has found themselves sacrificing sleep, productivity, and their mental well-being to go down this mind-numbing spiral of pandemic-related headlines.

“Doomscrolling” has been gaining momentum this week since the Los Angeles Times included it in a recent article about how coronavirus has introduced a new lexicon of words into our daily lives. The Times’ Mark Barabak described doomscrolling as “an excessive amount of screen time devoted to the absorption of dystopian news.”

However, the Times can’t be credited with inventing the word. Quartz reporter Karen Ho has been posting regular reminders on Twitter – often, between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. – to stop doomscrolling and go to bed. But, as Ho pointed out, she spotted the term’s use on Twitter in a post from October 2018 – and the word could easily have online origins even earlier than that.

https://twitter.com/karenkho/status/1245930278884802560?ref_src=twsrc^tfw

Doomscrolling is just one of the words that have recently resurged in popularity to become need-to-know parts of our vocabulary. Terms like “asymptomatic,” “social distancing,” and “herd immunity” have all entered our lexicon in the wake of COVID-19.

Beyond that, the pandemic has infiltrated internet slang and produced newfound words. There’s “the rona,” a shortened term for coronavirus; “Zoombombing,” the act of trolls infiltrating video calls to spam them with disruptive and hateful messages; covidiot, an individual who isn’t taking lockdown and social distancing orders seriously; and quarantini, an alcoholic drink for virtual happy hours.

Doomscrolling has already spread on Twitter and to other corners of the internet. Predictably, it’s on Urban Dictionary, where doomscrolling is described as the act of “obsessively reading social media posts about how utterly f–ked we are.”

So, there it is: We now have a word to describe those late nights and early mornings of scrolling through social media, unable to stop ourselves even as we dig ourselves into deeper pits of despair. Let me know if you’ve figured out a solution to doomscrolling – you can find me on Twitter at 2 a.m., refreshing my feed yet again.

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