Doomscrolling --- excessively scrolling through or reading about worrying news on the Internet --- has become a modern phenomenon. Of the many online spaces for doomscrolling content, the r/collapse subreddit (on the popular Reddit website) is one of the largest and has grown significantly in recent years. This subreddit also has an associated server on Discord (a text and voice-based chat platform), which together make up the r/collapse community. To investigate why individuals engage with the community, I conducted a qualitative interview study of fifteen users from the subreddit and the Discord server, including moderators of both spaces. Drawing from a thematic analysis of these interviews, I show that there is more beneath the reductive term "doomscrolling". What I observed from interviewed participants may be better described as "active" doomscrolling, which I saw as consisting of two parts: (i) actively seeking information perceived to be reliable and even actionable, and (ii) actively seeking emotional validation and support through that information seeking. I found that individuals in the community were fundamentally engaging in intentional information seeking and collective sensemaking. I also found that the Collapse Discord serves as a more cohesive and resilient partition of the r/collapse subreddit, while remaining aligned with the broader community's sensemaking of information. I suggest that such cross-platform partitioning is a natural result of individuals trying to navigate an increasingly complex and ever-expanding information landscape.
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Thesis advisor: Stuerzlinger, Wolfgang
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