Let’s be honest: It usually sucks to use social media. There are (far too many) advertisements that know too much, famous people posting bad takes, endless flows of negativity, and often using it straight up stresses us out. The process of consuming negative or upsetting content despite the effects doing so is having on your mental health is called doomscrolling. The term got popular early in the pandemic, but neither it nor the practice has gone away. I’ve certainly done it. I keep doing it. It seems like most of us do. But I realized this blog gives me an opportunity to do something about it. I’m going to try to be an antidote to doomscrolling.
I can’t change how people use social media (I can’t even really stop myself from going down rabbit holes), but I can offer people something different, a little more pleasant.
It’s basically my brand
This blog isn’t really one that would post the type of content that leads to doomscrolling anyway. Usually that sort of content is news; rarely is it the musings of a nerd. Some of my posts have skewed negative, but as a blog about analyzing arts and culture, the subject matter rarely gets that dark.
Going forward, I want to consciously produce content that helps people break the cycle of doomscrolling. When you see a post from Media Are Plural, it ought to do at least one of the following things (though preferably several):
- Put a smile on your face
- Be so bizarre that it commands your attention
- Make you think way too hard about a topic you don’t normally consider at length
- Provoke thoughtful discussion
I’m thinking of posts like my trip back to the 90s and my manifesto on why Waluigi needs a dating sim. These stories start goofy and stay there. They are definitely bizarre. They were about topics that are familiar but not often explored. And they both led to discussion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they were also the posts that readers seemed to enjoy most.
I declare war on doomscrolling
Truth be told, doomscrolling was part of the reason I abandoned Media Are Plural last time around, although I wouldn’t have called it that back then. Those were the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency and writing fluffy posts about media felt unimportant given what else was going on.
Instead, I stopped writing. But that didn’t change anything. I can’t tell you how many times I sat there looking at an endless stream of bleak posts. I wasn’t enjoying it, but I was unable to put the phone down.
We all have different techniques for dealing with doomscrolling. A lot of my friends use social media sparingly. I scaled back much of my use, but I also made conscious efforts to unfollow accounts that posted the type of content that would lead me to doomscroll. I replaced them with accounts that posted happier content.
That approach has kind of worked. Twitter, for one, ensures its users are constantly stressed out via its “trending” feed. Maybe doomscrolling is just a news thing. Even before the advent of social media, I remember hearing people talk about the prevalence of negative stories on nightly news shows and how stressful that was to deal with. At least back then all of life didn’t revolve around TV news like today it revolves around social media. That’s probably the real problem here, but that’s well beyond the scope of this article.
Why did you post this?
You might be wondering why I wrote this post rather than just going ahead and making the content I’m writing about. There are three reasons for that:
- It’s nearly Christmas and I needed an easy-to-write post so I can wrap gifts
- Writing this helped me stop doomscrolling for a few hours
- Putting it into writing keeps me accountable
Nos. 1 and 2 are self explanatory, but I can unpack No. 3. As a content creator, it’s helpful to have documents that guide your writing. That’s why so many artists write manifestos. If you’re stuck on ideas, look at the guiding document for inspiration. When you’re unsure whether an idea sucks, judge it against the principles you set out. Most outlets have something like that, whether it’s posted publicly or not. It’s basically a mission statement.
I posted it so readers can take part in the assessment process too. If they think a post missed the mark or if one contributed to their doomscrolling, they can point here and complain.
I’m off to do some doomscrolling
Like I said above, I have some gifts to wrap, so I’m ending this here. I think I made my point. Not that it’s difficult to say “I will try to make readers smile with my content.” The hard part is making them smile.
Also, please consider the above a resolution for 2021. My last post of the year is a reflection on 2020 and 2016, so that’s not going to involve a lot of smiling.