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'Doomscrolling' and the role of social media during major news events

13News Now consults a social media expert at ODU following Wednesday's chaos at the Capitol.

NORFOLK, Va. — It’s an overwhelming experience, and it’s been that way for a while. 

For all its flaws, social media plays a major part in keeping people informed during a major news event.

Such was the case Wednesday, when millions watched chaos unfold at the Nation’s Capitol from the palm of their hands.

“Which is something that’s challenging,” said Myles McNutt, assistant professor of communication and theater arts at Old Dominion University. 

“Processing information is not something we do naturally. On a day like yesterday it may as well have been an impossible task,” he said.

McNutt teaches courses on digital media and offered insight into the role social media plays in keeping us informed.

He weighed in on the phenomenon of "doomscrolling" - people glued to social media, refreshing for constant updates, even when the news is overwhelming.

“I think the principal of 'doomscrolling' is that we keep filtering through our feed and letting it wash over you,” said McNutt. “Hoping that consuming it or exposing yourself to it will help make it better, help you understand it or rationalize what’s going on.”

But that can be mentally destructive, right? At the same time, turning away feels like we’re turning our backs on our civic duty to stay informed.

“If there’s any sort of advice to people on social media, is that you have control of your feed and how you use it," he said. "Use that control to provide the best experience that balances the information you want and how you live your life, and ultimately how you can balance your mental health and day-to-day existence.”