Most Monday mornings, I walk into the office with no idea what happened in the national news over the weekend and some vague knowledge of local news. That is just the honest truth and I do it on purpose.
Even when I was in high school, I started calling politics "my sports." I still feel that way to a certain extent, but I learned after a few years how healthy a mental "unplug" can be. When I started getting interested in politics, Myspace was the only social media and my phone still had a physical keyboard.
By the time I was watching my first government shutdown live, I was in my college dorm, watching live on my laptop. Twitter and Facebook were available, but not too many of my followers were interested in politics. Even my boyfriend at the time, who was watching with me was getting bored with it. But, I was still fascinated.
Fast forward a bit in time...I start internships with newspapers like the Charleston-Gazette Mail and the Herald-Dispatch. I covered local meetings and feature stories for them. I was also the photo editor of Marshall University's newspaper, The Parthenon. I still hadn't considered "unplugging." I was fascinated by the work I was doing and only wanted more. That was before so much of the news became so constant and overwhelming. Sure, the cycle never stopped, but it didn't feel like I was trapped in it.
It wasn't until I started my job in Colorado that I started my policy of "unplugging" when I wasn't working. I was a full-time photographer at a local newspaper and soon was appointed their education reporter as well. I was working over-time constantly. We had a huge coverage area for such a small newspaper. Working at the "four corners" of the west, where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet, meant that every car accident, shooting, etc. within about 100 miles, needed coverage, and I was the head photographer, aka, time to drive. These roads are desolate and, in some regions, the only ways in and out of certain reservations and small towns. So, even if I was driving 300 miles in a day, it was news. That road might be closed for a while, meaning our readership couldn't get home to their families without taking a route through a couple of other states.
In general, I had Sundays and Mondays off at that job. I hardly looked at my phone on those days, I turned off news notifications, I didn't want or need to know all the bad. My brain needed a break from it all. I will admit that I was completely burnt out by the time I left that job in 2018. I needed a break, and I got one, for about a month in between leaving that job and starting at The Bluefield Daily Telegraph. As most of you know, my dad flew out to help me move and we traveled around while he was there, before heading east. Of course, I wanted to share photos on social media of The Grand Canyon, Arches National Park and more, so I stayed plugged in.
Once we finally arrived at my new home, I decided to take a complete detox from my phone. Well, social media and news. I wanted to text my friends to set up times to see them now that I was back. So, for the week before I started working here, I was as detoxed as I had been in years. It legitimately felt like a detox. As part of the "scrolling generation," I realized just how much time I spend scrolling through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, doing what you may ask? Comparing myself to others, inevitably.
According to a 2015 article in Forbes Magazine, taking a digital detox can actually lower anxiety, lead to better sleep and more creativity. The author of that article, Frances Booth said one of the benefits of detox could be, "To form memories (rather than being so distracted that you forget things). To have experiences for the sake of the experience, not for the sake of posting on social media."
That one hit me like a ton of bricks. Even at the Grand Canyon, I couldn't turn off my phone because I wanted to post to social media, so that the people out there scrolling and having a normal day would be impressed and maybe jealous of me. There is a video my dad took of me sitting in one of the visitor's centers, looking at my phone as a storm rolled in over the Grand Canyon, right behind me, an incredible view. It has always been an embarrassing video for me, but to my credit, I was looking at the plans I had made for our day there as a digital note on my phone, but I could have written them out on paper, right? It's an epidemic in our society, obviously. For me, personally, I think it is time for a detox soon. I have a vacation scheduled with my parents soon and I may take that as the opportunity to turn my phone completely off for a few days.
I encourage you to do the same every now and then. There are so many studies out there about how social media and the digital age is processed as a drug to our brains; we are addicted to that little "ding" of a like or text. If you can't do a full detox, there are now settings on your iPhone for time constraints on certain applications. After however long you set the timer, you'll be reminded to stop scrolling through other people's lives and live your own. Well, maybe not in those exact terms, but you know what I mean. Happy unplugging!