Depressed Doomscroller asks:
I’m feeling overwhelmed online. It seems like everything is tragic and dire all the time. Even things I should be happy about, like Pride Month, have so much discourse surrounding them. I know these conversations are important, and I’m also upset and angry about the political issues everyone is talking about, — but I just feel so powerless and exhausted.
The Internet used to be a safe and fun place for me, but now, it feels sad and heavy no matter where I turn. I can’t stop myself from doomscrolling and falling further and further into a depression. How do I overcome this? Where can I turn online? Or do I need to just disconnect?
An unnecessary definition for the hyper-online reader:
- Doomscrolling is the act of spending an excessive amount of screen time devoted to the absorption of negative news.
Depressed Doomscroller, I completely understand where you’re coming from. Every major Internet hub is an existential fucking nightmare! Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube — all social media algorithms aim to keep you as upset and “engaged” as possible to maximize the amount of advertisements you encounter during your stay.
I’d love to argue that modern social media “isn’t the entire Internet,” but fuck, man. When’s the last time you came across a thriving Proboards forum in the wild? Google shells out its top search results to the highest bidder, and popup-ridden Wikis have cannibalized the rest of the fansite ecosystem. There’s very little left to do online — except to buy things or get mad!
Though I (obviously) have bones to pick with the tech industry, I also struggle to disconnect. For all its ills, social media still provides an easy way for otherwise isolated individuals to connect with like-minded communities. Said another way, I don’t know where I’d be right now without pandemic-era Twitter, even as I wish for its swift and thorough death.
If you can swear off social media altogether, I’d recommend it. The less personal data we feed these corporate ghouls, the better. But if you, like me, struggle to detach yourself from The Timeline, there are still ways to mitigate its negative effects on your psyche:
- Log out of everything. No, like, for real. And make sure your usernames and passwords aren’t saved to your computer. The physical process of typing out your log-in information buys you the time necessary to reconsider your next steps.
- Have set goals in mind prior to logging in. For example, there are days I log into Twitter for the sole purpose of promoting this column. Once I complete my task, I sign off, regardless of how much I might want to stay and scroll.
- Practice online mindfulness. I didn’t fully comprehend how miserable Twitter made me until I took the time to monitor my mood. You know what doesn’t make me feel insane? Watching soothing, informational videos about vintage video games and anime. Curating a list of joyful online activities won’t necessarily stop you from getting sucked into a rabbit hole, but I guarantee that you’ll have a much better time on the way down.
Our former sanctuaries now farm our deepest fears for profit, and in many ways, it feels impossible to opt out. But someday, we’ll set our phones on fire, and then we’ll all be free. *
* Paraphrased: Smullen, Shauna. “ASMR, Synergy, and You.” VERY ONLINE. Edited by Hudson, James, 2022, pp. 11.
HYPER/TEXT is a queer advice column for the digital age: a space for subcultural dilemmas that leave offline friends scratching their heads. Should you block your best friend over lesbian discourse? What on Earth is a “kinnie?” Check in biweekly for answers to these questions and more as we explore the lives of the hyper-online!
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Fox Auslander is a nonbinary poet born, raised, and based in Philadelphia. They are one of three co-lead poetry editors at Alien Magazine and one of two co-editors at Delicate Friend. Find them on Twitter @circumgender.