The urge to un­plug

Maryland Independent - - Classified - By Me­gan John­son Twit­ter: @right­meg

So­cial me­dia is far from up­beat these days.

If your Face­book, Twit­ter and In­sta­gram feeds are any­thing like mine, po­lit­i­cal com­men­tary — from all sides — rules the day. It’s cru­cial (and Amer­i­can!) to dis­cuss cur­rent events, and I get that. But . . . well, it can still get men­tally ex­haust­ing.

As some­one who is on­line all day, ev­ery week­day, it feels im­pos­si­ble to “dis­con­nect.” On busy days, it’s not unusual for me to plunk down at my desk by 8:30 a.m. and not step out- doors again un­til din­ner­time. My sal­low ap­pear­ance re­flects that. With no break from the bar­rage of in­for­ma­tion, it gets over­whelm­ing.

It’s hard now, of course, be­cause it’s win­ter — but as soon as the tem­per­a­tures warm up again (and I have, you know, re­cov­ered from child­birth and all), I can’t wait to get back out and walk. When the Mary- land In­de­pen­dent re­lo­cated to its White Plains ad­dress last spring, I be­gan to en­joy stroll- ing around our new of­fice park in the sun­shine.

I’ve never en­joyed ex­er­cis- ing. Gyms feel like op­pres­sive caves, and I ab­so­lutely hate sweat­ing. But walk­ing? Walk- ing doesn’t feel like ex­er­cise at all — it just feels like . . . a respite. A chance to de­com­press. We all need that, I think. I’ve been mak­ing a con­cen­trated ef­fort to step away from my phone in the evenings. It’s fine when Oliver is awake, given we can’t take our eyes off him. But later? It’s easy to fall into “bore­dom” habits of aim­lessly scrolling In­sta­gram or Face­book af­ter Ollie goes to bed, too tired for any­thing more tax­ing than star­ing at pho­tos of cup­cakes and pets. My hus­band and I usu­ally put some­thing on TV and chat, but in­evitably we’re both still glued to our smart­phones. So ro­man­tic. In 2017, be­ing ever-con­nect- ed is the norm — not the ex- cep­tion. But in light of cur­rent events, I find my­self es­pe­cially fa­tigued from read­ing so many view­points and un­able to de­com­press, es­pe­cially at night. Phones have some­thing to do with that, no doubt.

It’s not just an af­ter-hours ob­ses­sion, though. Look around in any doc­tor’s wait­ing room and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a sin­gle per­son not tex­ting, talk­ing or tap­ping on a mo­bile de­vice. I’m not judg­ing; I do this, too. We’re all just “killing time” be­fore our names are called, and it gives us some­thing to oc­cupy our­selves.

We’ve for­got­ten how to be bored. I cer­tainly have. To be alone with our thoughts, to ru­mi­nate, to turn things over and day­dream — heck, to stare out a win­dow. With a de­vice al­ways in reach, why bother?

At the end of the day, though, I can’t “turn off.” To be fair, part of my in­abil­ity to sleep well could be chalked up to preg­nancy, not pol­i­tics. I’ve reached the stage where no flat po­si­tion can be com­fort­able and of­ten opt for the couch, where I feel slightly more sup­ported. I can’t get up with­out a 10-minute pep talk and strat­egy ses­sion.

If I want to stave off the phys­i­cal and men­tal ex­haus­tion, though, I know I need to be bet­ter about lim­it­ing my ex­po­sure to the stream­ing world. Fol­low­ing the news is part of my job and can’t be helped, but I can cut off how much I’m con­sum­ing af­ter-hours. I don’t have to be on my phone con­stantly. I don’t have to watch hours of nightly re­port­ing. That change can start with me.

If you’re feel­ing this way, too, join me in step­ping back a bit. It’s about self-care. The win­ter has been mild enough that I can go for an oc­ca­sional walk, even with my preg­nancy wad­dle, and I take ad­van­tage of more fresh air at lunchtime by do­ing an­other lap around the build­ing be­fore go­ing in. I try to leave my phone at my desk.

It’s my goal to start en­forc­ing a per­sonal no-phones-af­ter-9 rule. I of­ten find my­self stand­ing in our dark­ened bed­room as I plug in my phone to charge — by the bed, of course — and am still scrolling, scroll- ing, even when I’m bone tired and not find­ing any­thing more ex­cit­ing than emailed sales ads. Though the thought makes me twitchy, I want to start charg­ing my phone some­where that isn’t eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble from bed. When I’m struck with in­som­nia, it’s too easy to reach over and peer in at Face­book memes when I should be try­ing to re­lax. That pesky blue light and all.

Given Spencer and I will soon be up at all hours again with a new­born, this will be­come in­creas­ingly chal­leng­ing. If I re­ally want to dis­tract my­self (or stay awake long enough to safely feed said new­born), I’m go­ing to reach for my Kin­dle in­stead. I can keep the back­light low enough not to dis­turb any­one and maybe make some progress in the many books and mag­a­zines I’ve had dig­i­tally ac­cu­mu­lat­ing for months.

I’ll feel more pro­duc­tive, I hope — more pro­duc­tive than when I scroll, scroll, scroll through snap­shots and quotes and cat videos, any­way. I don’t know if it will make much of a dif­fer­ence, but it can’t hurt to try.

The cat videos will still be there, af­ter all. Pretty sure they’re the glue which binds the in­ter­net.

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