Let’s be honest, even casually following the news these days is a major stressor for the average person. We live in scary, plague-ridden times and the constant barrage of talking heads reminding us of this seems inescapable. And if you are also actively engaged politically, the toll that a constant assault of unwelcome news can take on your psyche is formidable.
It can, and often will, adversely affect your mental and physical health. When you are constantly plugged into virtual Armageddon, your nervous system usually responds by shifting into a fight or flight response, and when the flow of negativity is unrelenting, your body remains in permanent high gear.
This state of existence is exhausting and soul-depleting. No-one can deal with this sort of never-ending negative stimulation without ending up fetal in a corner babbling and drooling. And it will remain so until technology enables us to throttle people by reaching through the screen.
So why do many of us feel guilty when we have to unplug for a bit?
We often feel like we’re leaving our fellow activists holding the bag when we need a no-news zone for a bit. It’s hard to put down the burden when you know so many others are trudging along the same path.
But you know what? We’ve all been there, and if we stay in the fight, we will be there again. The feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and foreboding are not a sign of weakness. It helps to take a tech time-out and reconnect with the world outside of politics and pandemonium.
Yes, there is one.
Go forth blinking like a mole into the sunshine and surround yourself with nature. Read an enjoyable book. Hang out with your friends(yes, you can — even in the middle of a plague. That’s a positive use of social media.) Small, simple actions can make the difference between preserving your sanity and running in circles babbling incoherently.
Taking a break from the relentless madness is not only a crucial self-care measure, but it also ensures you rejuvenate to fight another day.
After all, it’s better to take a short sabbatical before survival-mode desensitization kicks in and your capacity for fuck-giving is depleted forever. Permanent political burn-out is a real possibility without the occasional mental health break.
As Bernie Sanders says, “never lose your sense of outrage.” This is what keeps us motivated. But never lose your sense of humor, reality and/or self either.
So, could you benefit from a Digital Detox?
If you’re asking, you probably already know the answer, but let’s run through a few tell-tale signs that it’s time to walk away from your screens for a wee bit.
- When you haven’t looked directly into another human being’s eyes since … shit, it’s been a really, really long time.
- You try to scroll through non e-books. And shopping lists. And boring conversations.
- Your phone hand has developed into an arthritic, phone-sized claw.
- When you can’t tell whether that lump on your couch playing Xbox is yours or the neighbor’s kid, and have to check his Facebook profile to make the determination.
- Alexa starts calling your name.
- You get sweaty and panicky if your battery gets below thirty percent and there isn’t anywhere immediately available to recharge.
- You try to punch in your Facebook password on the microwave.
- Your partner left you six months ago, and you’re just noticing now.
Evaluate your situation honestly, and remember we all have your back while you refresh and rejuvenate. Just like you’ve had everyone else’s when they took a brief powder. Relax. Reconnect with your loved ones. Breathe.
The End-Stage Capitalism Death Spiral will still be in full swing when you surface from your Digital Detox. Promise.