Like zombies undead, we collectively tap that video on our newsfeed. It’s trending now, three years since it was uploaded. Alas, today is the day this video brings out the wrath of us all. Together we head to the comments section. Suddenly, we all have something to say. “Conspiracy theory.” “Fake.” Unconsciously, the comment section becomes a tangle of fallacious arguments, memes, and frazzled nerves.
There’s little meaning behind this kind of nonsense — no genuine recognition. Nothing but the trophy of getting the most likes; a worthless certificate that only proves you’ve been trolling comment sections long enough to know that blatantly commenting hate is the easiest way to plant your metaphorical flag in the data dirt pile.
We’ve all seen those problematic pages — usually anonymous — that post purposefully antagonistic content to incite reactions. It’s a damaging cycle. We follow them. Then unfollow them. Then follow them once again. We love scrolling through the contentious content. Without fail, we repeatedly prove one of the most shameful faults in the human condition: the desire to seek out controversy. We like to see our prejudices exposed. We find enjoyment watching people disagree, argue and blame each other — it’s entertaining.
Yet, online, people are rarely what they seem. Some become nothing but a phantom of perfection, squeezed into Instagram stories and constructed through filters. Anything to feel relatable. Anything to boost engagement. Those scattered hearts feel like warm hugs, peeking out from underneath angry-reacts and meaningless comments.
#Enter the Void
You scroll as insincere invitations seem to possess your thumb. Images capture your interest in moments of suspense. You’re captivated by clickbait thumbnails, despite knowing they aren’t real. It’s the imitation of reality that intrigues you. Thoughts that crossed your mind that minute, days — or even months — before, present themselves to you. You’ve found what you’re seeking.
You find recommendations, suggestions to join others, and you enter the labyrinth. Every step is uncertain but thrilling.
In a rare moment of distraction, you notice more and more recommendations. Is it so wrong to console yourself with some satirical memes? A little laugh in the darkness can’t be so bad.
Walls have ears. Doors have eyes. But the traveller’s intuition is weak. The recommendations — they soon begin to scare you — they begin to push the boundaries of comfortability. You want to back away... but you’ve made it so far. Something shifts — Just another illusion.
But why is your heart beating so fast? You’ve shut your eyes just to open them again.
#The Unconscious Mind
You’ve been scrolling for some time now. Your open tabssit stationary. Your to-do list remains untouched. Time isn’t really passing if you’re not feeling anything. You put off the day ahead and jump into another rabbit hole of purposeless content.
Nothing but music marks the passing of time. The changing ambience set by each song makes for a confusing mood, sometimes disturbing. Every song acts as a marker, reminding you of another time — a playlist of empty memories — however none of them are able to pull you from the void of your newsfeed. The songs amble past, syncopated with the disconnected rhythm of your scrolling fingers.
You’ve now joined the army of the lifeless. Exanimate, you scroll. Nothing seems to truly fill the void of uncertainty. One more thread. One more reaction. One more argument between someone you don’t know and their cousin from 2014.
Time, emotions and intention — they all get warped online. That’s why thoughtlessly scrolling through the content of strangers can be dangerous. We don’t register the emotions of a Tweet the same way we read the facial expressions of another person. In real life, we decide in a split second whether to laugh, or to show empathy, compassion, and understanding. Online, it feels like only shreds of these emotions seep through the screen. It’s so easy to get caught in the whirlpool of opinions, forgetting there are complex human beings sitting on the other side of the screen.
The next time you enter a doom scroll cycle, try to remember that others online are worth more than a mere fragment of our consciousness.
Clutch onto that, and try to dream brighter than your screen.