The Endless Doomscroller
An endless stream of doom, without all the specifics.
“Doomscrolling” refers to the ways in which people find themselves regularly—and in some cases, almost involuntarily—scrolling bad news headlines on their phone, often for hours each night in bed when they had meant to be sleeping. Certainly the realities of the pandemic necessitate a level of vigilance for the purposes of personal safety. But doomscrolling isn’t just a natural reaction to the news of the day—it’s the result of a perfect yet evil marriage between a populace stuck online, social media interfaces designed to game and hold our attention, and the realities of an existential global crisis. Yes, it may be hard to look away from bad news in any format, but it’s nearly impossible to avert our eyes when that news is endlessly presented via designed-to-be-addictive social media interfaces that know just what to show us next in order to keep us “engaged.” As an alternative interface, The Endless Doomscroller acts as a lens on our software-enabled collective descent into despair. By distilling the news and social media sites down to their barest most generalized messages and interface conventions, The Endless Doomscroller shows us the mechanism that’s behind our scroll-induced anxiety: interfaces—and corporations—that always want more. More doom (bad news headlines) compels more engagement (via continued liking/sharing/posting) which produces more personal data, thus making possible ever more profit. By stripping away the specifics wrapped up in each headline and minimizing the mechanics behind most interface patterns, The Endless Doomscroller offers up an opportunity for mindfulness about how we’re spending our time online and about who most benefits from our late night scroll sessions. And, if one scrolls as endlessly as the work makes possible, The Endless Doomscroller might even enable a sort of exposure or substitution therapy, a way to escape or replace what these interfaces want from and do to us. In other words, perhaps the only way out of too much doomscrolling is endless doomscrolling.
Images and GIFs
- Everything Will Be Fine, Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin, Germany, 2022
- PAF 2022, Muzeum umění Olomouc, Olomouc, Czechia, 2022
- Software for Less, Aksioma Institute of Contemporary Arts, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2022
- Software for Less, arebyte Gallery, London, UK, 2021
- DOOMSCROLL, Leonardo/ISAST Pavillion @ The Wrong / New Digital Art Biennale (online), 2021
- Dependent Places / WRO Media Art Biennale, WRO Art Center, Wroclaw, Poland, 2021
- Send Me To Endless Happy Warning, Galerie TIC, Brno, Czechia, 2021
- Piksel Festival, Studio 207, Bergen, Norway, 2020
- COVID E-Lit, Electronic Literature Organization Art Festival, Aarhus, Denmark, 2020
- Art in the Plague Year, UCR ARTS: California Museum of Photography, 2021
Paper and Related Writings
In 2022 I published a software studies analysis of doomscrolling, using reactions to/reflections on The Endless Doomscroller—and drawing on ideas from Wendy Chun, Christian Andersen, Søren Pold, and others—to examine the role of platform interfaces in our pandemic-era descent into despair.
In 2022, my reflections on this work (and others) were included in Pandemic Exchange: How Artists Experience the COVID-19 Crisis, edited by Dutch net art critic Josephine Bosema. This book is available for free as a PDF.
I spoke with Mike Dobuski of ABC News Radio about The Endless Doomscroller:
- Gizmodo: Presenting The Endless Doomscroller
- Mic: “The Endless Doomscroller” soothes my doomsday anxieties
- Stuttgarter Zeitung [Germany]: Was ist Doomscrolling?
- A.V. Club: Doomscrolling is art now, so feel free to keep on despairing
- Esquire (Germany): Im Sog der Hiobsbotschaften – Das ist Doomscrolling