Doomscrolling and the rise of personal blogs, newsletters and podcasts
21st January 2021
Yesterday’s inauguration speeches really felt like a sliver of hope in an otherwise pretty bleak few years on social media, and since lockdown had started, I’d found that keeping up with the news regularly had started to take its toll on my mental health.
Coined in 2018 (but existing in prior forms):
Doomscrolling can be defined as “an excessive amount of screen time devoted to the absorption of dystopian news. Doomscrolling can lead to long-term effects on mental health…
To prevent such consequences, mental health experts have stated that society must “mount interventions that address users’ behaviours and guide the design of social media platforms in ways that improve mental health and well-being.
As such, I’ve decided to try and not read the news daily, reduce Twitter time, and decided to keep track of folks through their personal blogs. If something truly bad happens, it will filter through, and once or twice a week is fine for news. Set a time for catching up on things, instead of reaching for your phone on autopilot to check your likes and notifications.
There’s definitely been a resurgence of personal blogging and sharing posts by RSS (who remembers Google Reader) and I’ve had real moments of joy reading and connecting with people through their writing.
Similarly, with podcasts, and newsletters - there’s something eminently personal about them - it’s refreshing listening/reading to a few voices at your own pace, rather than a firehose of information that doesn’t shut off.
I’m having a hard time putting my finger on the differences of this compared to things like Twitter, Facebook and the like. There’s definitely room (and need) for both in today’s world, and I know a lot of people’s work wouldn’t reach the audience it needed without it.
However, there’s definitely a place for both owning and self-publishing one’s own content. Want to change how you show it? Want to add a way for people to reply by email at the end of your posts? Want to order it by date? All easily done when you are in control of what you show and what you publish.
It’s well known that both Facebook and Twitter choose what to show to people, so even if you follow someone, you might only be seeing a fraction (or none) of what they publish.
I’m having a hard time finding a good analogy, but it’s a bit like:
The Open web and self-publishing - listening to someone walking side-by-side outside - you can hear them clearly, and converse easily.
Closed Social Networks - trying to hear someone standing on a busy packed train (Twitter with its algorithm, ever-changing feed and promoted posts) - there are always interruptions, people trying to get past, noises and random announcements, or rude people forcing their opinions on you.
Open versions of things like Twitter (like Mastodon) have never taken off - it’s a hard market to crack when there’s an established behemoth that everyone has used for years.
What to do?
I think you can use both.
Grow your audience on public wider platforms with a bigger reach you don’t control, but build relationships on owned ones.
There’s a reason people are starting to own their own email lists and audience. More and more people are writing now on their own platforms, and it just feels more personal and less restricted.
Build a following on Twitter is building a castle out of sand, as the implacable tides shift in and out. Invest in the free and open web - blogs, podcasts, newsletters.
Choose when and how you consume things online, and curate your feeds.
Be mindful. As they say ‘you are what you eat’ and that totally applies to the internet when it comes to mental health, and it’s totally ok not to be up-to-date with things online all the time - it will still be there when you return.
I’m a big fan of:
- NetNewsWire for reading
- Pocketcasts for listening
- Bear/iAWriter for Note taking
- and Kirby for writing.
- Try something like Tweetbot to tame Twitter - make lists of people you feel like following, and just look at those. No inline ads. A timeline in date order.
But the real beauty is that there are lots of options out there - find one that suits you, and take back control of how and when you consume information - it can really help your mental health.