[photo credits below]
Name a word that we use on Thanksgiving Day more than any other day of the year. Yes, it would be nice if that word were “giving” or “thankful” or even “thanks,” but let’s be real for a moment. I’m going with the word “stuffing” or “stuffed.”
There’s a reason for associating the word “stuffing” with Thanksgiving, and it’s not just what we put inside the turkey. I’m sure that we use the verb “stuffed” more often on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year, because that’s what we do to ourselves; it’s not just a widespread practice anymore — it’s tradition.
Thanksgiving is thus a good time to consider what else we’ve been stuffing ourselves with lately. Let me answer that for you (or at least a lot of you, myself included): you’ve been stuffing yourself with social media. And with news from the media, both mainstream and the fringe.
Admit it: for you, the holiday ritual of stuffing yourself silly began several weeks ago, now didn’t it? Before and during and after the election, you stuffed yourself full of mainstream media articles and Facebook news and goodness knows what else. Maybe even some of that “alt-“ crap. Stuffed. Yourself. Silly. Now you remember why they call them “news feeds,” right?
So, so what? ’Tis the season after all, right? If we stuff ourselves with food, we might as well get into that holiday spirit by stuffing ourselves with information as well. Especially the kind that seems to feed us — feeds our beliefs, our righteousness, our outrage. Ah, it tastes so good I can’t stop! Yum yum yum yum (snort, snarf, slop…).
“Well, if you put it that way” — well yes, I do put it that way, because of this: Consuming way too much information will hurt you at least as much as consuming way too much food. Gluttony is not limited to food and drink, and it is called a “deadly” sin for a reason. At least with food and drink, the loosened belt and bellyache and hangover will only last a short time; you can always go on a diet after the holidays, even after having an extra piece of pie or three. (Because who stops at two pieces? Well, I usually don’t.) That information you’ve been feeding your head stays around much longer — maybe not the specific content so much, but the reverberations of it, the endless electrical impulses and elevated hormone levels, the muscular tension held in your jaw and neck and shoulders and on downward, the pained look on your face that becomes chronic and then a hard freeze.
Maybe you like this way of being, but it’s not working for me. So I’m cutting down on my social media and news intake for the holidays — a lot. It’s not a social media/news “vacation” or “holiday” because I still plan to check in every now and then. More like a social media/news diet — maybe even two or three squares a day — so it’s not even an austere diet. But it’s not the social media/news glutton fest which I’d been feasting on either. Besides, I don’t think it’s necessary for me to go cold turkey (saving that for the day after Thanksgiving — heh heh). I simply want to curb my consumption to a healthy level, one that helps me maintain a sense of space and perspective instead of feeling perpetually stuffed in mind and spirit.
This is how I’m doing it: I’m keeping a running, daily tally of each time I look at social media or news, and I’m keeping a tally of each time I have the urge to look but resist that impulse. No more than three social media/news “meals” per day, and no snacking if I can help it. (I’ll save that for the pies.) Also — and this is important — I’m keeping a list of the social media/news triggers I identify along the way. Here’s what’s on my trigger list so far (and it’s only the first day!)
– Seeing a blank “New Tab” open in my browser window.
– Transition to a new task on my computer. (Task doesn’t matter, whether it’s work or creative or something else.)
– Reaching for the “F” key (hint: “F” doesn’t stand for “Ford Motor Company” anymore!) when opening a new browser window.
= Taking a break from a task (e.g., writing).
– Needing a break from a task (e.g., writing).
– Internal dialogue, e.g., some imaginary conversation with someone whom I disagree with (on Facebook or elsewhere).
– seeing that red dot with a number in it on an app icon on my iPhone
Not a pretty picture this is painting – a bit too much Pavlov going on, isn’t there? That’s why I’ve created this trigger list and am holding myself to it (as in holding it in my face): to show me just how ingrained the habits are and how deep I have to dig to get them out.
Yes, I know this goes against the grain of holiday festive feasting, but look at it this way: if you curb your social media/news intake and overindulge on the food and drink side, at least you can tell yourself truthfully that you did show some restraint during the Thanksgiving holiday and beyond. Just as long as you leave me that extra piece of pie….
Photo credits: Pie photo by John Sener; No Social Media icon from http://www.jodywissing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/no-social-media-icon.jpg ; No News icon from http://www.nonews.info/