December 6, 2022
A new study reveals that actively scrolling through bad news across social media platforms is linked with declines in both an individual’s mental and physical health.

Right off the bat, this seems like the most obvious conclusion that can be reached, but researches aren’t just conducted to prove obvious concepts: they’re performed to rule out other potential causes and/or solutions for said concepts. However, I’d like to state that I have a little bit of a bone to pick with this study and its parameters. This study surveys individuals by inquiring about certain online habits and scores them accordingly, but then doesn’t provide solid definitions of those scores to us. Therefore, the article will frequently use terms such as moderately, severely, or non-problematic, without us as readers having any knowledge as to how these terms are defined. Ultimately, though, we can probably make a good enough guess, so let’s further delve into what the research set out to do, and what it did or did not accomplish in the process.

The study was conducted by Bryan McLaughlin et al. and was published in the Health Communications journal. Its primary aim was to document and assess the phenomenon of “doom scrolling” amongst US citizens, therefore adding to the burgeoning volume of social media-related sociological studies. For those unaware, doom scrolling is an activity via which users frequent online platforms in the effort of identifying bad news that’s occurring in both their surroundings and the world at large. Think of it as the extended version of being unable to look away from a car wreck. While the phenomenon’s probably been around for a while, it gained true traction across 2020, which in and of itself felt like a year where anything that could go wrong managed to. This, combined with everyone being stuck with their electronic devices, led to unhealthy behavior patterns developing.

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The research article surveyed 1,100 US adults and graded them on a four-point scale: non-problematic, minimally problematic, moderately problematic, and severely problematic. The population is almost evenly split across these four brackets, at 28.7%, 27.5%, 27.3%, and 16.5% respectively, which is good news. The severely problematic bracket has fewer individuals in it as compared to the rest of our categories: however, that still leaves a lot of people with troubling online behavior.

I think it’s important to realize just how much bad stuff occurs on a day-to-day basis, of course. However, doom scrolling is in and of itself a completely inefficient exercise, as the user partaking can do nothing to change their surroundings or contribute to most matters at hand. Ultimately, perhaps it’s best to simply stick to one’s morals, and spend their time accordingly.

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