The urge to unplug
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.