If you have TikTok, Instagram or Twitter, I have a quick “challenge for you.” Set up a timer on your phone and scroll each of these apps until you encounter one of the following: A: An environmental disaster. B: A public figure getting canceled. C: A school shooting. D: Videos showing the results of a natural or an unnatural disaster. E: A “call for action” against another individual/company. F: Anything overly politically biased (insulting). G: Body shaming / overt bullying disguised as memes. H: Intensely personal situation overshared by someone you have never seen before, and will never see again?

I did this test for myself. I personally don’t have a TikTok, but it took me 16.85 seconds on Twitter to find an H, and it took 13.08 seconds to find a G on Instagram. This should be insane, but it has become so normalized and impossible to avoid.

Doom scrolling is a term defined as: “The Act of spending an excessive amount of time reading large quantities of news online.” It is also defined as “The act of spending an excessive amount of time-consuming short form, vertical content that is particularly upsetting.” Doom scrolling is particularly popular among the Gen Z and Gen Alpha generations, as we have never been more connected to anyone we could ever dream of, as well as having unending content streams to choose from. Consistent consumption of negative and overwhelming media can contribute to dread and apathy to these continuous events, as we eventually just get burnt out by caring so much. As hard as that is to hear and say, it is unfortunately true.

There are many reasons why this negative content exists. Shocking and relevant topics generate clicks and promote ad revenue, so of course that is what we are going to see the most of. But also, an endless feeling of crushing loneliness has become perpetrated by the sea of people on the internet. People plead for someone to connect to, someone to see their suffering so that they don’t feel so alone in it. Gaining engagement, advice, and support through content outreach can be very comforting and reassuring.

Hearing heart-wrenching stories of suffering over and over again can make us feel helpless. What are we, in South Dakota, supposed to do to help the poor people affected by the tragedy in Baltimore? How do we support those affected by war and bombs? What can we do about the homelessness crisis, when we are scrimping and saving for every meal ourselves? This bombardment creates a struggle to know what to prioritize, and the feeling of wanting to do it all, and wanting to do it all now.

So, what are we to do? It’s irresponsible to tell you to avoid social media because that is just not how the world works anymore. There are just some things to maybe keep in mind when you find yourself overwhelmed with the world. The constant onslaught of information, and the obligation we feel to keep on top of it all is impossible. No matter how much we care about people and their problems, when we put theirs before our own, we lose our sense of ourselves and what we stand for. You have to put yourself first. You have to recognize your own discomfort and develop systems for breaking out of it.

Having a constantly negative perspective on everything in the media warps how we see the world and how we consume media. Our generation needs to be constantly stimulated and consuming multiple forms of really intense media at the same time. Remembering to consume all media with a grain of salt can help quell some anxiety and anger about how some people behave online. Anonymity can give a lot of confidence to people who are simply looking for a reaction.

Use your block and mute buttons. The algorithm exists for you to manipulate. It doesn’t even have to be egregiously offensive for you to block them, they can simply just be posting things you aren’t interested in! Blocking accounts you have never seen before when they pop up on your for-you pages isn’t a direct insult, it’s just you editing the content you see.

We are bound to doomscroll. It’s inevitable but remembering that your world is much different than what you see online can be helpful. Reach out to your friends, or your family to debrief. Set up a game night, or something to keep off your hands for a few hours. Distract yourself in positive and fulfilling ways.