In the 1960s, American President Johnson complained to Time magazine editor Henry Luce that his publication was not reporting all the positive things that were happening in America. “Mr. President,” replied Luce, “good news isn’t news. Bad news is news.” This negative bias still holds true today: just watch the evening news, or read a newspaper, or scroll through your social media feeds. Bad news is more prevalent and, more worryingly, it can also become addictive. In fact, many people end up compulsively reading an endless stream of reports about natural disasters, crimes, economic crises and political turmoil. This obsessive consumption of bad news is called doomscrolling.
Why do we doomscroll?
Doomscrolling is a morbid habit that makes us feel depressed, anxious, fearful, as well as hostile and suspicious towards others. Furthermore, it makes us feel helpless, which leads us to become passive and resigned. So how can this horrible practice be addictive? To answer this question, we first need to look at our ancient past. Our prehistoric ancestors learned that to survive in a hostile world they had to pay more attention to potential threats than to the pleasant aspects of life. We inherited this survival mechanism, and this is why bad news can feel so compelling. Secondly, we need to examine our news sources. News websites and social media are designed to keep us interested in their content; they are experts at keeping us hooked, for example by offering us constant updates on their never-ending coverage of catastrophes, crises and tragedies.
Hi, are you doomscrolling?
Doomscrolling became a word in 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. American journalist Karen Ho played a role in popularizing the term. She regularly tweeted to her followers to stop doomscrolling about Covid. She then created a reminder Bot that sends tweets like this one: “Hi are you doomscrolling? Is there a hobby you can do instead, like a craft or tending to your plants? You still deserve time to rest and recover.” This is probably one of the best recommendations if you have an unhealthy relationship with technology: switch off your devices and engage with the real world by doing something simple and concrete.
Strategies against doomscrolling
Nonetheless, it’s important not to give up on reading the news altogether. It simply needs to be done wisely. To prevent doomscrolling, you should avoid getting news from content producers who tend to focus on controversial or sensationalistic news. You should remove negative or aggressive content from your social media feeds. And maybe you could set a timer to limit your time online. Also, you might consider consulting news sources that focus on positive and uplifting stories. There are plenty on the internet. As the website Positive.News states, good news gives people “a fuller picture of reality, supports their wellbeing and empowers them to make a positive difference.”
Positive.News’ statement raises an important question: should journalism simply report, or should it stimulate its readers into action? In recent years, a new form of reporting has emerged that does just that: solutions journalism. This new approach to reporting aims to do more than just present problems. Instead, it explores effective actions taken by individuals or communities to address them. For example, a solutions journalist might report on a neighborhood plagued by crime while also highlighting the social programs aimed at reducing it. Another might cover the destruction of a forest by wildfires, but emphasize the subsequent reforestation initiatives. Solutions journalism aims to inspire a sense of agency and optimism in its readers. Learning about solutions makes us feel more hopeful and empowered, enabling us to engage effectively with problems, even when immediate solutions aren’t apparent. At the end of the day, solutions journalism might be one of the best antidotes to doomscrolling, transforming passive consumers of news into active citizens.
1) Why do we doomscroll? Watch this BBC short video:
2) Would you like to read some valuable tips on how to stop doomscrolling? Here they are:
3) Watch this short video to find out how social media keep us hooked:
4) Are you interested in Karen Ho’s reminder Bot?
5) Here are a few sites that focus on good news (the fourth is an Italian site):
6) Check out the official website of Solutions Journalism Network:
1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the correct alternative.
1. Editor Henry Luce believed that
a. good news is more interesting than bad news.
b. good news is not worth reporting.
c. there is no good news.
2. News organizations mostly report bad news because they have
a. a negative bias.
b. a positive bias.
c. a doomscrolling habit.
a. causes anxiety.
b. promotes optimism.
c. fosters trust in others.
4. Doomscrolling is addictive because
a. it offers solutions to problems.
b. it stimulates a survival mechanism.
c. it focuses on the pleasant aspects of life.
5. The term ‘doomscrolling’
a. became popular during the Covid-19 pandemic.
b. was invented by Karen Ho.
c. was first used by Henry Luce.
6. Karen Ho’s reminder Bot tells people
a. to have a healthy relationship with technology.
b. to doomscroll about Covid.
c. to stop doomscrolling.
7. A wise strategy to avoid doomscrolling is to
a. limit one’s time online.
b. read only the news on social media feeds.
c. stop reading the news altogether.
8. News sources that focus on positive stories
a. focus on controversial topics.
b. offer a more balanced picture of reality.
c. are unreliable.
9. Solutions journalism
a. is only interested in problems that can be solved.
b. aims to present problems in detail.
c. presents problems but also their possible solutions.
10. Solutions journalism
a. makes readers feel more anxious.
b. makes readers more passive.
c. inspires a sense of agency and optimism.
2) Complete the sentences with the following words. Put the verbs and nouns in the right form, if necessary.
uplifting * resigned * agency * hooked * morbid * craft * to tend
* turmoil * to empower * compelling
1. I’m in a state of mental …………………………………….. when I think about all the stressful things happening in my life right now!
2. Some people have a …………………………………….. interest in news about gruesome murders.
3. She had a …………………………………….. expression on her face as she realized that she was going to lose the competition.
4. I had a dream that was so …………………………………….. that I didn’t want to wake up.
5. That film was so suspenseful that I was ……………………………………..!
6. I enjoy manual labour, especially …………………………………….. such as woodworking and ceramics.
7. I have a beautiful vegetable garden; I …………………………………….. it every day.
8. I feel lighter after reading happy stories. They are literally …………………………………….. .
9. Having …………………………………….. means that you have the ability to act and make a difference.
10. Giving people the tools they need to take action is a way …………………………………….. them.
GRAMMAR – Modal Verbs
3) Choose the correct modal verb to complete the sentence.
1. I think that mainstream media should/would/may stop having a negative bias.
2. You will/must/can stop doomscrolling. It’s an order!
3. I must/may/would love to become a journalist!
4. I’m sure that in a few years solutions journalism would/may/will be the most common kind of journalism.
5. To be a journalist you must/may/might have a very strong sense of duty towards your readers.
6. It’s not an order, but you might/must/would consider setting a timer to limit your time online.
7. Our world must/may/has to be full of tragedies, but it’s also full of people who fight every day for a better future.
8. Doomscrolling may/must/has to have a negative impact on your mental health.
9. You will/should/shall be suspicious of controversial news.
10. Prehistoric humans always had to/must/would remain vigilant because the world was a dangerous place.
4) Do you ever doomscroll? What kind of bad news do you find most compelling? How does doomscrolling make you feel? Do you use any effective strategy to break free from this habit? (60-80 words)
5) How do you stay informed? Write about your news sources and the kind of news that you read on a regular basis. (60-80 words)
6) Pair up with one of your classmates and look at Henry Luce’s statement below; one of you will argue in favour of it and one of you against it.
Proposition: Good news isn’t news. Bad news is news.