The Day After The Election Is New Year’s Day For Digital Detachment

Who of us that lived through it will ever forget Election Night 2016?

If you’re like me, you spent the day glued to several screens, refreshing charts and reporting and live blogs and twitter feeds like some sort of coked up monster of a wall street trader. Election day is to digital detachment as Mardi Gras is to sobriety.

You stayed up way too late; you careened through several full cycles of intense emotions…  Then at some point you passed out — either supremely joyful or utterly dejected.

Then, you woke up the next morning presenting the symptoms of a hangover, either literal or figurative or perhaps both.  Your head was fuzzy; you tried to piece together what had just happened the night before; you probably called your friends to relive the night’s events and discuss an intense shared experience.

At some point, the recriminations likely set in.

If your gal lost, this probably happened immediately upon awakening. What sort of false dream world were you living in the past several months?  Did you really need to read all those articles? Watch all that news? Stream all that caustic wit and sly criticism.What good did it do you? What good did it do her? Then came that last information/media bender on election night.  You worked yourself up into an anxious, unhealthy froth, deprived yourself of sleep … for events over which you had no control (i.e. the tabulation and reporting of ballots already cast.)

You felt like it was the New Year’s Day after a total shit show of a New Year’s Eve.

If your guy won, the morning reflections were likely more subtle.  You woke up with a wide smile on your face, probably pinched yourself, but then you looked around and noticed it was the same bed in the same house with the same daily life.  Nothing about your life had changed and you maybe took a few moments to think about just how wrapped up you were last night, last week, and all through the year since primary season.  You likely felt an optimistic sense of it being time to turn away from the distractions and disputes of the election and get back to work on what’s important to you.

You felt like it was the New Year’s Day after a glorious, Hollywood-ending romp of a New Year’s Eve.

Either way, you knew intuitively that sustaining the intense behavior of the days and nights just passed would not sustainable for your long term health and sanity.

If your gal lost, you should practice some digital detachment.  Some suggestions:

  • The obvious: take the day off of work and initiate a digital sabbath.  No internet. Preferably no cell phone.
  • The personal: instead of contacting your friends digitally, pick up the phone and call them.  Or, better yet, arrange to meet face to face.
  • The natural/physical: Take a hike. Go surfing. Grab the yoga mat. Or whatever makes you happiest. Leave your phone at home.  If you’re an introvert do this alone. If you derive your energy from people, drag along the friends you love best.
  • The simple: If you’re a total junkie and just can’t tear yourself away from the screens, here’s one small thing you could do.  Spend at least 15 minutes reading content from the other side. Watch your thoughts and emotions. Don’t even worry about setting aside judgement. Today, that might be impossible even for Ghandi.  After you’re done, just forget about it.

If your guy won, you should practice some digital detachment.  Some suggestions:

  • The obvious: take the day off of work and initiate a digital sabbath.  No internet. Preferably no cell phone.
  • The personal: instead of contacting your friends digitally, pick up the phone and call them.  Or, better yet, arrange to meet face to face.
  • The natural/physical: Take a hike. Go boating. Grab the hunting rifle.  Or whatever makes you happiest. Leave your phone at home.  If you’re an introvert do this alone. If you derive your energy from people, drag along the friends you love best.
  • The simple: If you’re a total junkie and just can’t tear yourself away from the screens, here’s one small thing you could do.  Spend at least 15 minutes reading content from the other side. Watch your thoughts and emotions. Don’t even worry about setting aside judgement. Today, that might be impossible even for Ghandi.  After you’re done, just forget about it.

Whether your guy won or your gal lost, here’s the most effective digital detachment strategy you can practice in the days and weeks after an intense election:

Go get involved with something that gives you the opportunity for non-digital, face-to-face interactions within a political (or at least a community service) context.  I’m not talking about donating money or clicking “like” or signing petitions.  I’m suggesting you do something personal and “social,” in the original sense of the word.

I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you the options are virtually unlimited.

If you’re unhappy with the election result, get involved and make yourself useful somewhere, somehow, to some cause that needs your expertise and enthusiasm or some individual who can benefit from your time, attention, and friendship.

If you’re happy with the election result, get involved and make yourself useful somewhere, somehow, to some cause  that needs your expertise and enthusiasm or some individual who can benefit from your time, attention, and friendship.

Here’s a specific example just emailed to me from my friend, Sang, who writes: “I’ve volunteered to be a teaching assistant at the Catholic Charities of LA to provide help to those who are taking their US Citizenship exam. That’s the first step for me, but definitely not the last. I’ll be looking for other opportunities and will continue looking until I find something where my strengths and abilities could best help a cause.”

Stop reading and start doing.

Get your eyeballs out of the screen and put your body into the arena.

Or, rather, read and stare just a little less.  Use that precious, recovered attention to put yourself out there in a real, concrete way.  I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do yet, but I’ll let you know in an update to this post.

Do it.

Do it before these intense emotions and these days of reflection slip away into the next “cycle,” which, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know is impossible not to get caught up in, spun around violently, and spit out into a different world.

A world that was mostly there all along if we’d slowed down to take a closer, more “detached” look.

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