My apology for the late publishing of this column. Hurricane Matthew called many journalists in SPJ Region’s 3 area to travel to the coasts. – Sharon Dunten, SPJ Region 3 SizingUptheSouth.com editor.
By Carla Jean Whitley, SPJ Alabama president and professional journalist
How much time do you spend reading a single document – a magazine, an article, a book, an essay – before you divert your attention to your smart phone? You’re probably reading this email on such a device, right, and it’s amazing that we can hold so much information literally in the palms of our hands. But that accessibility can also lead to information overload.
If you haven’t experienced that, hit reply and share your secret.
Andrew Sullivan didn’t just experience overload, his overload left him ill. Fifteen years of blogging with increased frequency, social media and an obsessive desire to curate the web brought Sullivan to his wits’ end. As he sought medical treatment, a doctor asked, “Did you really survive HIV to die of the web?” The was a wake-up call.
Sullivan’s New York magazine essay “I used to be a human being” cut to my core. I work in media; information is my currency. But in recent years, I’ve also set boundaries in an effort to prevent information from supplanting my sanity. I delete the Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone. It takes an extra step to open those feeds in my browser, and those seconds give me a chance to consider – even briefly – whether I really want that continuous river of noise. I used to review and write about music. Now I spend most of my time at home hours in quiet. Like Sullivan, I found meditation a tool to create space in my days.
Information and technology aren’t bad. That’s not the point of Sullivan’s article, nor is that my motivation for sharing it. But I believe there’s something lost when we experience life primarily through screens. (Research seems to back that up.) Read the essay, and let
me know what you think.
A fewer smaller bites:
Kiese Laymon’s “What I Pledge Allegiance to” is a thoughtful response to the current debate surrounding the American flag. Frankly, this isn’t an issue I considered prior to Colin Kaepernick’s protest. Regardless of your opinion, I found Laymon’s piece thought provoking and isn’t that what our discourse should prompt?
This isn’t exactly a small bite, but what I’ll say about it is: I’m reading “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” in preparation for the next episode of Triple Take. Tomorrow we’ll interview Morgan Smith (aka Red from Wendy’s commercials) in advance of a pair of shows at Red Mountain Theatre Company. She identified Harry Potter as the book that influenced her, and my favorite HP book in particular, so I like her already.
I’ve been wrapped up in a major project, so I haven’t written much for publication consumption lately. The first piece of that project published Friday, “Meet AL.com’s 2016 Women Who Shape the State.”
I have, however, spent 10 minutes most recent morning writing in my journal. That practice is helping me reconnect with the craft that drives me. I set a timer after my morning meditation and allow myself 10 minutes to write whatever comes to mind. Do you journal? What about? What benefits have your experienced?
I’ve had a busy few weeks, and my pace is slow as we enter of my favorite months (hooray, October!). In the mania of late August and September, though, I’ve found breathing room in boundaries. My roommate recently asked why I wrote “stay in!’ on several consecutive blocks of our shared fridge calendar. I needed the reminder, I explained, and to give myself permission to say no. I own a shirt that reads “Sorry, I can’t, I have plans with my cats” – a birthday gift from a friend who gets me – and I have to remind myself that I need those quiet moments to be the best version of myself. (I am sitting with Mac and Harry as I type this.)
But we aren’t meant to exist in isolation, and I’ve also had several recent soul-satisfying conversations with friends. Balance may be an illusion, but it’s worth the pursuit. I’m grateful for the people in my life.
Carla Jean Whitley is president of SPJ Alabama Pro. firstname.lastname@example.org