Dustin Mitchell was looking through the local news when he came across an interesting article. It was about a woman who had, in a fit QAnon maniac, destroyed a display of facial masks at a Target store in Scottsdale, Arizona. Later, the woman explained why she got to this point. She said that all she did was "doomscroll", referring to her fervent consumption of terrible news via social media. Mitchell was right.
Mitchell, a Dallas-based metal guitarist, thought, "That's an amazing name for a group." "I was able to do that."
Mitchell, 38, who works at Amazon as an operations manager, said he doesn’t believe in doomscroll. Mitchell doesn't spend much time online. He checks local news occasionally, NPR occasionally, but he doesn't use Twitter and Reddit for anything other than researching new gear. Mitchell believes Doomscroll gave him the inspiration to create his "progressive" thrash metal group. He filed his first trademark application with the US Patent and Trademark Office last February. A few months later, Mitchell received an email acknowledging that his trademark would be approved within 30 days and published. Mitchell would then be the only one to protect and exploit Doomscroll as a band name or entertainment property. Doomscroll would one day rock. Mitchell registered www.facebook.com/doomscroll in anticipation.
Mitchell was playing his guitar in October before he went to bed. Mitchell decided to check his email once more. In his inbox appeared a message from a lawyer. "Dear Mr. Mitchell," it read. "My law firm represents Id Software LLC that owns the videogame DOOM and related trademarks." Mitchell was asked by the lawyer to extend the deadline. Mitchell and Doom's developer were able to come up with a solution before the legal process.
Mitchell felt instantly funny, even a little sour. Mitchell was just 10 years old in 1993 when Doom descended on the gaming world. It allowed edgelord gamers to become enraged with their arsenal of guns against the backdrop of fiery hell. Mitchell had played Doom 2 and Doom 3 back in the day. He also listened to the metal-inspired soundtrack of 2020's Doom Eternal. Now Mitchell is in a surprising standoff with the developer. Mitchell says he loved these games as a child, but now "they're trying take something away from us that is completely unrelated."
Calla Mounkes, an artist, tweeted that the first use of doomscroll was in 2018. "Taking a break form doomscrolling" she wrote. Mounkes said she used the term since 2017, but she isn't certain how she came up with it. She told WIRED via email that she believed it was something that had been coming up in public consciousness. "When everyone is attached to a smartphone as I am, it is almost inevitable that we will find language to describe our endless fascination with social media."
The term "doomscrolling" was popularized in 2020 as the headlines about coronavirus, police violence and the election collided into an ever-growing hurricane of morbidity. Google searches for the term shot up, reflecting our collective urge to scroll through endless feeds of ominous information on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. It was an acknowledgment of our masochistic tendency towards obsessing over the negative, a common sickness of the perpetually online. Boomer parents, Stephen Colbert, and others were saying it, doing the same, or trying to avoid it. In such a situation, we resort to narrower, more immediate survival-oriented behavior. Nicole Elisson, University of Michigan School of Information Professor, said that we are in "fight-or-flight mode". Psychologists believe that doomscrolling can cause mental health problems, often leading to anxiety and depression.
One of the most interesting aspects of trademarks is that no one can trademark "doomscrolling", which is an online platform for mass hysteria. A generic term that is used to define or describe a phenomenon or object can't be trademarked. Apple, for instance, cannot be registered as an Apple trademark. However, it can be registered for computers as a trademark because the term "apple" does not describe computers. As a name for a progressive metal band, "doomscroll" is not descriptive or generic of music, musical performances or musical services. Anna Chang, Sideman Bancroft's trademark lawyer, says that you can, theoretically, apply for and register the mark. "Assuming that there is no opposition in this case.
Karen Ho, a Business Insider finance journalist, is the most familiar with the term. Ho was frenzied, anxious and scrolling Twitter late at night in April 2020. This interrupted her sleep. It wasn't just Ho, it was all the journalists she knew. Ho began tweeting reminders to drink water, stretch, log off and go to bed. Soon, Ho was known as the "Doomscroll Lady" on Twitter.
She tells WIRED that she would only like to have one job. She also says that she didn't create the term, but she popularized it through about 55 interviews with scholars and journalists. Ho eventually outsourced her reminders and tweets to @Doomscroll_Bot. This Twitter bot has 16,000 followers since it was created in May 2021. Merriam-Webster added the doomscroll category to its "Words That We're Watching" section in June 2020. This was a delight for Mounkes who is a self-described bookshy. She said that she "wanted to be a writer of words, so it's kind of like I've made the transition."
Chang said that it is quite common for Id Software to file a trademark application like this to stop other people using the term in ways that could cause confusion about its product, which was in this case the video game Doom. Sci-fi fans rioted when CD Projekt Red, a video game publisher, trademarked "cyberpunk," in the EU for Cyberpunk 2077, its dark open-world cyberpunk game. Cyberpunk is an old-fashioned genre. How could a Polish company trademark it? CD Projekt Red explained that it was only a "self defense measure" and added that they could stop Cyberpunk 7702 from being published if another person registered the trademark. CD Projekt Red held the trademark "cyberpunk", in the US, since 2011.
Id Software is also looking into "doom" in this way. Id Software owns several trademarks that include the word "doom" as well as video games. In the past month, Id Software has filed oppositions against trademarks for "ODoomlings" and "Doomlings." Id Software also filed oppositions regarding entertainment properties such the Maryland Doom Fest and Garden of Doom. JB, who is behind Maryland Doom Fest, said he didn’t pursue the trademark following Id’s initial opposition. He believes it would have been too costly. Jeff tried to trademark Garden of Doom podcast. He said he reached an agreement with Id Software lawyers. He stated that he couldn't make a video or movie called Garden of Doom.
The fate of Doomscroll lies in the hands Id Software, and the Patent Office. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board are currently processing opposition from Doom developers. Mid-October saw the release of a lengthy trial schedule that stretches into 2023. It is possible that Id Software does not even want the Doomscroll trademark. Mitchell might not want to form a progressive-thrash metal band that someone might confuse with the well-known game series.
Doomscroll might never be able to rock. This could be a positive thing. However, it might be too soon for a band like Doomscroll that reminds us about our intense anxieties and the addictive nature of social media negativity. Mounkes believes it's beneficial for other reasons. She says, "I hope nobody makes money from 'doomscroll.'" It's a sort of lame band name.
This story first appeared on wired.com