On Tuesday, September 24, the House of Representatives announced they’d be launching an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. This happened after a whistleblower (tooooot!) revealed that Trump had lorded the possibility of financial aid over Ukraine until they agreed to investigate Hunter Biden for his involvement with an oil and gas leasing company in the country during his dad’s tenure as Vice President. After news of the complaint hit the public press, Trump, for some reason, decided to publish an abbreviated version of the call, including a section where he implicitly asked for the investigation in order to send Ukraine the money they need. Soon after, the House of Representatives, unable to ignore the illegal activity any longer, launched an impeachment inquiry.
As this news hit, a chorus of dings and buzzes also sounded across America, the headlines lighting up our phones as though they were ancient fire signals alerting citizens of word from afar. We all looked. We all read. Some of us swiped to read the full story; others went back to the tasks at hand. But for a few seconds, we all lost track of what we were previously doing in the same moment.
As the shit storm from the White House reaches new colors on the doppler radar, we are made aware of all it by our phones. We see our devices light up and reach for them in a panic, thinking What fresh hell has been unleashed today? These notifications enter our brain with all the subtlety of someone smashing through our car window. However brief they may seem, they interrupt our thought processes and drag us from whatever we were doing. It is not good for our mental health (studies have found that both children and adults who are exposed to constant news and upsetting images can exhibit signs of PTSD from the overexposure) and frankly, the real F5 part of the shit storm hasn’t even hit yet. We need some sort of brain low-jack system to maintain our sanity.
So, for the love of God: Turn off your notifications. Prevent yourselves from getting pulled into the vortex. Unless you work in the media or in an industry where you must react to the wild gesticulations of our Commander and Chief, you don’t need to know what’s happening all the time. We all, especially parents, need moments of calm, where we’re not being drawn out of our lives and into the rage or anxiety these history-making events cultivate. Even if you think you’re good at hiding your emotions, you’re not: Kids are pretty good at picking up on mom and dad’s mood, and grabbing your phone, sighing, and rubbing your face in exasperation is a good, surefire way for your kid to realize you’re anxious about something.
I get it: it’s so easy to want to watch history unfold because the next update might be the big one, the one that changes everything. But think of it this way: the Watergate scandal lasted two years. Two years! The Clinton impeachment lasted 14 months. Although the House Intelligence Committee has more or less committed to focusing largely on Trump’s quid pro quo to Ukraine, and therefore plans to zoom through the impeachment process (ha!), it won’t move quickly.
No, this isn’t a case to ignore everything. Apathy is the glove into which evil slips its hand. You don’t want to plug your ears with and shout “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” Being an engaged citizen is important and does mean, on some level, that you have to read the news story about the hilariously incompetent and illegal shit that’s happening. That’s just part of the gig. But maybe do it at work on a lunch break? Or just on the train to the office? Or, better yet, dedicate a half hour in the morning to catch up — if you don’t mind a side of rage and befuddlement to go with your coffee. Or maybe you listen to a quick politics podcast recap of the current affairs. Do your civic duty in a way that suits you.
But do it in a scheduled time. Without shielding yourself from the hail storm of impeachment news aimed at your head, there’s no way to avoid the anxiety, giddiness, rage, annoyance, or any other normal emotions that well up. And these emotions, however good you may be at hiding them, get in the way of such activities as, oh, relaxing after a long day at work, enjoying a meal with your wife and kids, going to sleep without wondering what will happen tomorrow, and, of course, getting off your damn phone.
So, cancel push notifications. Use the iPhone’s nifty Screen Time function to block out updates for a certain period of time. Do what tech-guru Tristan Harris does and shuffle the position of apps on your phone so you’re not conditioned to randomly paw at your news app whenever you reach for it. You need it. Your kids need it. Your spouse needs it. The news isn’t going anywhere.