Digital in the Age of Doomscroll

            2021 is many things, including, an odd time to get paid to share information on the internet. As the social media manager for Southern Spaces, an open-access digital academic journal, I share published pieces on Twitter and Facebook. These are channels that are now actively struggling to combat disinformation campaigns and conspiracy theorists. They are, also, where many people get their news. Twitter is, for me, an aggregator of all of the news sites I subscribe to. Before March 2020, I woke up, scrolled through the headlines, and went about my day. All of that changed after the pandemic threw our world asunder. I found myself endlessly scrolling through tweets I already had seen desperate for more information that simply was not available at the time. This endless scroll is now known as “doomscrolling,” the most appropriate word to come out of 2020.

            In this climate of uncertainty, tragedy, and attacks on facts, where does an academic journal fit in? Initially, in March I struggled with how promoting our work would read in a time of so many unknowns. Would it be insensitive to publish articles from our public health series? Should I steer clear from our articles that address death? What can an academic journal offer in the midst of a doomscroll? After a few days of handwringing I realized that, like many a well-intentioned academic before me, I overanalyzed the problem. Of course, there was room for Southern Spaces in a time when folks, like myself, kept reading the same headlines over and over as we scrolled endlessly through our feeds. I realized that embedding videos of poets reading in the places that inspired their work could be a balm to soften the doomscroll. Sharing footage from a Sacred Harp singing that we had recently published offered another potential salve for the person who needed it. When universities began to shut their doors to keep faculty, staff, and students safe, I realized that sharing our open-access articles could help teachers and students trying to find resources without fully operational libraries.

I learned to stop thinking about social media as a place to “promote” and instead, reframe it as a place to “share” information. That simple shift in terms allowed me to see that there is space for an academic journal on social media during trying times. There’s always room for poetry, music, and knowledge. Indeed, maybe those things can make scrolling a little less doom-filled.