Brief exposure to social media during the COVID-19 pandemic: Doom-scrolling has negative emotional consequences, but kindness-scrolling does not

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PLoS One. 2021 Oct 13;16(10):e0257728. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0257728. eCollection 2021.


People often seek out information as a means of coping with challenging situations. Attuning to negative information can be adaptive because it alerts people to the risks in their environment, thereby preparing them for similar threats in the future. But is this behaviour adaptive during a pandemic when bad news is ubiquitous? We examine the emotional consequences of exposure to brief snippets of COVID-related news via a Twitter feed (Study 1), or a YouTube reaction video (Study 2). Compared to a no-information exposure group, consumption of just 2-4 minutes of COVID-related news led to immediate and significant reductions in positive affect (Studies 1 and 2) and optimism (Study 2). Exposure to COVID-related kind acts did not have the same negative consequences, suggesting that not all social media exposure is detrimental for well-being. We discuss strategies to counteract the negative emotional consequences of exposure to negative news on social media.

PMID:34644310 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0257728