the gathering

When Doomscrolling Takes Over

Aug 15, 2022

Advancing technology has always generated new language. Social media and twenty-four-hour news outlets have certainly generated buckets of new words. Do you know the word doomscrolling? I bet you can guess its meaning even if you don’t know the word. I periodically get on my news app to stay abreast of current events, and the headlines look like this….

Missile Hits Ukrainian School
Recession is Inevitable
New Variant is Leading to More Death
John Q. Pastor Accused of Sexual Assault
Wildfire Devastates Northern California Town
Three People Killed in Indiana Mall Shooting

I keep reading. I keep doomscrolling. I lie in my bed or sit on my couch and I invite the full weight of despair to slowly descend on my chest or shoulders to the point where I no longer am strong enough to stand back up. William Randolph Hearst is often credited with the news printers’ maxim, “If it bleeds, it leads,” meaning the most gruesome stories get breaking news coverage and premiere placement. With social media and web tools, everything can be the front page, and when everything leads, the publishers gravitate toward what bleeds, and we keep doomscrolling.

The last line of Psalm 88 says, “darkness is my closest friend.” Cue Simon and Garfunkel.

Everywhere we look, we can see darkness and we find the chronic oppressiveness of collective despair. If you’re like me, sometimes you’re exhausted by the day before you even get out of bed. I think everyone has experienced this and technology has made us increasingly susceptible to it.

Putting down your phones may help some, but you’ll still hear the headlines from your doomscrolling friends. You’ll still want to be an informed voter and look for news somewhere. You’ll still see all the true crime documentaries on Netflix’s top 10 list.

Exercise may help some. Exercise has proven positive impact on mental health and motivation. But what podcasts and music will you be listening to in the gym? My gym has 20 TVs suspended from the ceiling and about half of them are playing the news, where if it bleeds, it leads, and apparently, there is no shortage of blood.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any way to avoid the darkness that news outlets and social media platforms are using to attract an audience to sell advertising space to insurance companies and car manufacturers. So, if we can’t avoid it, we may as well figure out a way to live with despair, right?

Psalm 121 reminds us of hope. After starting off with a reminder of where hope comes from, it says, “the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.” The darkness of night will not harm us when we have hope. We may not be able to rid ourselves of the negativity that sometimes seem to surround us, but we can bring light to dark places. We can remind ourselves of beautiful things.

Here are some stories I like to reflect on…
Dear Friend Celebrates Ten Years Sober
Neighbor Couple Gives Birth to Healthy Baby Boy
Lottery Winner Donates Winnings
Single Mother Gets Promotion at Work That Allows More Time Off and Cooler Vacations

Daughter Asks to be Baptized
Jesus is Alive

We can’t avoid the darkness in the world, and we probably shouldn’t. But we can be a light. We can start churches that are hope beacons in seas of despair calling out to weary travelers. We can emphasize the good that the Kingdom of God coming to Earth carries with it. We can model for others lifting our eyes to the mountains, asking where does my help come from? I found hope in a brand-new church plant, and I have dedicated my life since then to helping others have the same story. When doomscrolling threatens to overwhelm me, that purpose and the hope I’ve found in Jesus through the church is what gets me to continue moving forward.

Matt Murphy

Matt Murphy


Matt lives in North Beach, MD and is married to Becky Murphy with two kids, Ariella & Rex, and one dog: Ravenclaw. Matt has been a part of four church plants in the DC/Baltimore metro area. Matt was previously the Executive Pastor for Revolution Church in Annapolis, MD, and before that, was the Project Manager for the Siemens Center for Applied Medical Imaging MRI R&D group at Johns Hopkins University.