Now is a better time than ever to unplug
Spending much time on internet news sites, social media and other immediate sources of information can teach a person a lot in a quick amount of time. Local, state, national and even worldwide current events are at our fingertips whenever we want it, for however long we seek it. Wait a few minutes, you can bet another story or hot take will be added to the enormous collection of information that floods cyberspace.
On the surface, it sounds great, doesn't it? Looking back at the days of three network news channels and waiting for the daily newspaper to arrive at our doorstep, this is a vast improvement.
But with useful information comes the inevitable flood of bad news, the types of news that while compelling, can be frustrating, depressing and negatively impact the day. And while we are consuming this information, we are ignoring what is taking place around us — family, friends, the outdoors and more. It seems at times as if we keep consuming the latest news out of fear that we might miss something important. Or perhaps we might lose a vital piece of ammunition in a war of words or ideology with another person or group of people.
Ask yourself this — how addicted are you? Could you step away from it for a full day — no news sites, no social media, no cyberspace at all? It's a good test in the same way that a person would check their addiction to a substance.
Hopefully, most of you are capable of stepping away, because there might not be a better time to do it than right now. Let's face it, the pandemic has turned the news cycle into a constant barrage of stories about sickness, death, economic strife and everyday life getting taken away by the need to quarantine. Add to that the heated arguing and violent riots that bubbled out of the racism and police brutality debate and there is plenty of negativity to consume and use as fuel in a war of words over social media.
Don't misunderstand. People should stay informed and social media in moderation helps us stay connected to loved ones at a time when meeting in person is not so easy. But what we should try to avoid is constantly feeding at the trough. What if we devoted a small space of time each day to catching up on the news — much like the days of the evening news? Would it hurt anyone to limit social media in a similar fashion? Is that hot take, nugget of internet news or meme so important that it can't wait until later?
Even though the pandemic has limited our entertainment options, unplugging from cyberspace would still free up time with the family, enable us to get outdoors and fix our eyes on the gorgeous summer landscape of Central Oregon and perhaps get some exercise.
Mental health experts have recently stressed the importance of limiting our flow of information during this pandemic to help ward off anxiety, depression and other issues. A great start would be to put some sidebars on the tablet or smartphone use and reconnect to the outside world — perhaps for a few hours, or a day, or even a few days. Maybe you won't miss as much as you think.
Jason Chaney is the managing editor of the Central Oregonian in Prineville.
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