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How To Build Your Own Digital World

Tali Oates provides some very valuable pointers on how to avoid doomscrolling and take control of your digital world.

May 20, 2023


Words: Tali Oates
Images: Tali Oates

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Doomscrolling
(noun)
1. when one appears to endlessly scroll from hour to hour, falling into the mindless void of cats playing the piano and slime ASMR.
2. one of social media’s greatest evils.

While Gippsland is an extraordinarily beautiful place to grow up in, as the saying goes, the grass always looks greener on the other side. Growing up in a country town as a teenager can feel isolating and, to ease this feeling, young people often turn to social media as a form of escapism. Rural teenagers can feel less represented in their slower-moving daily lives and look to live vicariously through the online worlds of others. After a period of scrolling, I have often found myself wishing that I was somewhere other than the place I am. The serenity of the lakes was replaced with a sense of discontentment and disconnection with the place I call home.

“Our lives have been shaped, for better or worse, by the power of the Internet...”

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It is this very notion of doomscrolling and mindless consumption that has often pushed me away from social media. I’m continually conflicted between the immediate satisfaction digital content provides and my inability to control the vastness of the digital world that I face every day.

The reality is that we live in an increasingly connected age where worlds collide and overlap with the click of a finger. As Uncle Ben once lovingly said to his teenage nephew turned hero, Spiderman, "With great power comes great responsibility," and this too applies to the awe-inspiring, miraculous tool that is the internet. It wasn't until I watched a TEDx Talk by Max Reisinger, a YouTuber, entrepreneur and co-founder of Creator Camp and the #youtubenewwave, that I could finally view social media as a tool for creation and connection rather than destruction or distraction.

Max’s TEDx Talk, ‘Stop Trying to Quit Social Media’, emphasises the belief that creating and consuming art, whether it be a documentary or a podcast, is the solution to offsetting the digital epidemic. His response as a YouTuber has been through the #youtubenewwave, a push for more meaningful content to replace the mindless waves of clickbait. Gippslandia itself is an example of how social media can strengthen communities while supporting local businesses – “connecting Gippsland through the power of storytelling”.

Like Max, I have often found myself overwhelmed by the vastness of the online world and its invisible algorithms and increasingly frustrated with the fact that the only solution offered to stop this internet addiction is a complete 'detox' – erasing our digital footprints and our online connections with any social media platforms. While the average person isn't a YouTuber or content creator who is able to or who wants to shift the subject matter of digital content, it is our responsibility as the audience to take control of our own digital worlds. Our lives have been shaped, for better or worse, by the power of the internet and it's time to ask ourselves: What kind of digital world do we want to live in?

Max's talk and #youtubenewwave, alongside the notion of positive storytelling promoted by Gippslandia, have inspired me to control the content I consume rather than letting it control me. Here are some pointers if you would like to take control of your digital world.

01

Firstly, don’t make your phone the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see at night. This is a basic tip, but screen time affects the way dopamine is released in our brain, and looking at a screen in the morning and at night has been scientifically proven to disrupt what could've been a good night's sleep and a long day of energy. You can replace scrolling with reading a book, journalling, exercising, going for a walk or just going outside to watch the sunrise or sunset.

Mindless consumption is dictated by the habits we choose to create.


02

Intentionally choose the type of content you are consuming. This means being aware of the type of videos or stories you are watching and how they make you feel. Are you watching this content for entertainment or education? Are you learning anything, or are you just trying to fill in time? The aim of mindful consumption is for you to be in charge of what YOU consume. This may mean limiting the number of YouTubers or Instagram accounts you follow to ensure you're watching the right type of content for you. Other questions to ask yourself might be: Does this content reflect who I want to become? Am I watching this content because I want to, or because I’m avoiding another task?

03

Be aware of when you are using your phone and why. Maybe you really love those cat videos… buuut they take up a little too much of your downtime. When I come home from a long day at school, or Mum or Dad come home from work, sometimes all we want to do is have a little bit of time to switch our brains off. However, time tends to pass quicker than you realise when you are scrolling and, before you know it, you have been on your phone for hours and you haven’t gained the feeling of relaxation you were searching for. Similar to intentionally choosing what content you are watching, intentionally choosing the times to watch content is important.

04

Recognise that all content has gone through editing and is curated to a specific audience. That glorified, perfect day-in-the-life video posted by someone the exact same age as you is just that – glorified through the power of editing. Regardless of whether it is entertaining or informative content, there is always an underlying bias or motive behind the camera. Be media literate and always take what you see with a grain of salt.

05

Prioritise long-form content over short pieces of media. By choosing to consume a 20-minute YouTube film rather than what was meant to be 15 minutes of TikTok but turned into an hour, we can maintain a longer attention span. Choosing to only consume one story means we can process the information, develop our analytical skills and take in new information, rather than mindlessly scrolling for the sake of keeping occupied.

06

Finally, balance your consumption with creation. Remember that as good as it may feel to feel inspired by those you follow online, the most valuable part of social media is the change it can bring into our own lives. This change is something that we have to decide to incorporate. As wonderful as it may feel to watch your idol live their dream life, recognise that watching others do something is not the same as actually doing it ourselves. If you saw a cool video of somebody learning how to sew and felt inspired, go give it a go yourself!

Inspired by the idea of a sunrise run? Why not see if you like it? Often we fall into the trap of doomscrolling because we feel stress or insecurity in our own lives and are looking for a way to escape. While this may work as a short-term solution, in the long-term, escapism through social media doesn’t bring any benefit to our lives.

These are only a handful of the tips skimming the surface of mindful consumption. Whether you’re going into year 12 and trying to save time for studying, or in your late 50s looking for ways to just get off that damn Facebook cat scroll, I hope you’ll benefit from these tips.

The reality is that the digital world can enhance our experience of reality, rather than inhibit it. Being conscious of my online consumption has opened my mind to the opportunities I already have before me – it was through following Regional Arts Victoria online that I was able to connect with this mentorship.

So I ask you: With these tips in mind, what kind of world do you want to build?

Gippslandia - Issue No. 30

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