Few aspects of my life cause me as much pain and suffering as social media. Conversely, social media is an incredibly convenient and effective method for staying connected with family and friends, building a sense of community among readers and fellow writers, and (sometimes) marketing my work. I have found, however, that social media consumption is a paradox: one moment I scroll through my Instagram feed and I feel inspired, empowered, and entertained, while the next moment that scrolling dredges up a gray cloud of overwhelm, sadness, and feelings of inadequacy. This negative scrolling behavior is known as doomscrolling (See Note 1), the obsessive, self-perpetuated cycle of scrolling social media feeds only to spiral through feelings of dread and despair.
When engaging fellow writers in conversations around this social media paradox (to determine if these feelings are unique to me or if others shared them), many report maintaining their accounts a necessity for staying connected to their writing communities, marketing their books, and growing their readership. Furthermore, the majority of those individuals also claim they wouldn’t be on social media at all were it not for the demands of marketing and engagement. In a recent survey (See Note 2) of my Instagram followers who are also writers, the majority of participants reported negative reactions caused by scrolling disproportionate to positive responses. The writers indicated that while they enjoyed connecting with friends, writing communities, and good distractions, such as dog videos and funny memes, scrolling through their Instagram feed had sometimes caused an overwhelm of mental and emotional exhaustion, triggering feelings of envy, comparison, sadness, and worry.
The social media paradox is a construct that has fascinated me for quite some time. Feeling tethered to and/or obligated to engage with the notorious algorithm while simultaneously experiencing joy, pride, and entertainment has encouraged me to consider the level of control I have over my own emotions while scrolling. How much control do I have over how social media influences my mood? How can I reframe those negative emotions so that I don’t succumb to the adverse effects of doomscrolling? My answer? I can change the way I interpret my feed.
When relating the effects of social media to mental, emotional, and even physical health, while subsequently measuring self-efficacy and control, I’m immediately reminded of a specific Tarot card: The Hanged Man.
What is the meaning of The Hanged Man card?
In the Tarot, The Hanged Man (sometimes referred to as The Hanged One) encourages making a conscious change in perspective, as well as becoming inspired to see and/or understand an idea or situation in a different, unique way. The card also fosters surrender and enlightenment, two concepts that require a measure of awareness, acceptance, and self-control. As such, when it comes to doomscrolling, working with the energy of The Hanged Man card can empower writers to reframe how we understand social media’s influence on our feelings in order to invoke positive mental, emotional, and even physical outcomes.
The Hanged Man: A Deep Dive
For a deeper dive into employing The Hanged Man card to help reframe social media in order to see things from a different perspective, I’d like to introduce you to an activity.
1. When taking note of negative feelings and/or emotions caused by scrolling your social media feed, first identify those feelings. Common negative effects of doomscrolling through social media include:
2. Next, after identifying and honoring the emotion, try asking yourself the following questions. These questions were designed to help you reframe that emotion so that you can take back control of your response to it and foster a healthier relationship with social media. I recommend journaling your responses so that you can track the prevalence of your negative feelings toward your social media experience.
Therefore, when you feel [emotion], ask yourself [these questions]:
What can I say or do to help change this situation?
Where are the helpers in this situation?
What are the helpers doing that I can appreciate, support, and champion?
How can I support the people who are affected by this situation?
How might someone I trust help me through this feeling?
Will how I’m feeling matter next week/month/year?
What healthy activity can I engage in right now that will bring me joy?
How can I celebrate my individual uniqueness?
What do I have for which I am grateful?
In what ways can I be proud of myself and the work I’m doing?
How can I celebrate the best things about my work and me as a writer?
What would it look like if I let go of how this situation or person is making me feel?
In what unique ways am I different from this situation and can be grateful for it?
How can I achieve a significant goal?
What changes can I make to direct my life toward a significant goal?
What do I have for which I am grateful?
What about my life can I appreciate as a result of what happened to me?
What can I do or say differently in order to right what I did not do or say?
What are your thoughts about this activity? Do you think the questions might be helpful to you? Why or why not?
The Hanged Man Reversed: the Shadow
When The Hanged Man is upright on their feet, they are still tethered, but now they are stifled. There is an inability to see or accept something in any way that is not negative or unproductive. There is a selfish refusal to surrender in the direction they are being pulled/led. And, there is a fear of letting go.
Notable Symbols for Justice
Spirit / Water
The number 12 represents the 12 signs in the zodiac as well as the months of the year. Additionally, the number 12 can be reduced to the number three, as 1 + 2 = 3. In numerology, three means creativity, expression, growth, celebration, longing, transition, drive, expansion, cooperation, results, communication, working, caring, and collaboration (the Holy Trinity, the Wiccan Rule of Three).
The tree from which The Hanged Man is suspended is shaped like the Egyptian ankh, a symbol that represents the key of life, or eternal life. Therefore, we might conclude that The Hanged Man is suspended from the Tree of Life.
The individual’s legs form a cross and their crossed arms and head form a triangle shape. In alchemy, a cross above a triangle is the inversion of the symbol for sulfur, which means the completion of self-transmutation (See Note 3).
There is a halo surrounding this individual’s head, which means enlightenment, a holy state, and sacred knowledge.
The Hanged Man, Characterized
This individual has reversed their attitude and invited a spiritual awakening, an awakening of what their soul needs in order to be their best self. They have surrendered to the pull of the Universe and are patiently waiting for, listening for, and/or resting until they receive instructions around what happens next.
Who can the figure in the card be?
Sir Francis Bacon, Benjamin Banneker, Buddha, the Dalai Lama, Rene Descartes, John Locke, Mr. Miyagi, Voltaire, Phyllis Wheatley, among others.
Definition of doomscrolling. (n.d.). In www.dictionary.com. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/doomscrolling
Hughes, A. (2022). How does scrolling through social media make you feel? [Data set]. Instagram. www.instagram.com/haintbluecreative
How to Read the Hanged Man Card | Tarot Cards. (2018, November 12). [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved June 1, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjlZE4slkPQ&feature=youtu.be
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In her more than thirty years as a storyteller and visual designer, Amanda “Mandy” Hughes has written and designed over a dozen works of upmarket, literary, and women’s fiction under pen names A. Lee Hughes and Mandy Lee.
Mandy is the founder of Haint Blue Creative, a space for readers and storytellers to explore, learn, and create. Although she earned a Bachelor and Master of Science in Psychology, she has yet to figure out her family, much less herself. And that's a good thing!
When she’s not writing, Mandy loves going to the movies, theater, traveling, nature walks, birdwatching, margarita-making, and binge-watching The Office. She is a tarot enthusiast who uses the cards to promote wellness and enhance creativity. She lives in Georgia with her husband and four boys, two of whom are furrier than the others (but not by much). Visit her website at haintbluecreative.com and follow her on Instagram @haintbluecreative.