What Is Doomsurfing?

By Pamela Connellan
on 27 January 2022

Are you one of those people who tend to surf the net, scrolling through bad news about what’s happening – especially lately about the pandemic? Do you find it hard to stop yourself from reading all of this bad news even though it makes you worried, concerned and depressed? Well, there’s a new term for this and it’s called Doomsurfing – or Doomscrolling.

Doomsurfing and Doomscrolling are the new terms for this habit of reading bad news continuously. Some people tend to do it more than others, finding it hard to stop themselves and step away from their phones or devices. The problem with Doomsurfing is – the experts are pretty sure it erodes your mental health, making you more anxious than you might necessarily be and then you have to deal with the consequences.

Woman on phone
Doomsurfing and Doomscrolling have been coined to describe the activity of reading bad news continuously.

Kevin Roose was one of the first to write about it back in early 2020 when the pandemic first hit. He wrote about it here in The New York Times:

I’ve been doing a lot of this kind of doomsurfing recently — falling into deep, morbid rabbit holes filled with coronavirus content, agitating myself to the point of physical discomfort, erasing any hope of a good night’s sleep. Maybe you have, too.

Then Kathy Katella wrote about it in Yale Medicine in April of 2020: Are you spending too much time looking for news about COVID-19? (Doomsurfing is a term that is coming up—it’s essentially relentlessly searching the internet for coronavirus-related content during the COVID-19 pandemic.) If you are doomsurfing, it may be time to take a step back and ask yourself what you really need to know.

The Origins of Doomsurfing and Doomscrolling

Doom has always referred to darkness and evil. Through modern day literature and film, doom has come to mean a “a time of catastrophic destruction and death,” and doomsday referred to a day of final judgment.

Surf has been the preferred verb used for browsing the Internet back when the Internet was a new thing; it extended naturally from such phrases as channel surfing, suggesting the habit of not staying on one site or channel for any length of time.

These days, because many of us are more likely to read news on our phones or through our social media feeds, the new term doomscrolling is also now popular. It’s very similar to doomsurfing and so it refers to an excessive amount of screen time devoted the absorption of dystopian news.

In fact, Google has told us the world searched for doomscrolling more than ever last year. Although the term has been around since at least 2018, the world searched for it more than ever in January 2021.

Whether you use the term doomsurfer or doomscroller – the gist of it is the same. Don’t do too much of either because it can be bad for your mental health.

For more from Women Love Tech about your mental health, visit here.


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