Art by Madeline Duvall
This is not the semester anyone wanted. Pepperdine requiring electronic devices to attend classes and participate in any semblance of campus culture makes detaching from technology more difficult and necessary than ever before. In August, the University shared an article on Twitter by Graziadio Business School Professor Cristel Russell explaining “how too much screen time can be detrimental to our health and well-being”; the irony was not lost on us.
The pressure to unplug so often becomes an issue of personal responsibility — yet another box to check off the never-ending to-do list. To spend a moment offline, we risk falling behind on work and missing the next update from friends we cannot meet face to face.
At the Graphic, we seek to provide solutions in many of our journalism stories. We also acknowledge it is insulting to assume we can all be as resilient this year as we may have been during previous semesters. Rather than supplying calls to action or opinions, some staff members chose to share their experiences to help our readers find meaningful ways to log off, take a break and get a break.
“When I feel like I’m going to explode from looking at my screen too long, I force myself to get up and go on a drive. I try to get my sister to come with me, but if not, I use the time to clear my head or call some of my friends to catch up — even if it’s just for a few minutes.” —Caroline Sharpless, Perspectives Editor
“The time I spend each morning applying my makeup is one of the few parts of my day when I am able to focus only on myself; it is one of the only times when I am able to relax, be creative and forget about my to-do list. It makes me feel empowered, happy and ready to take on the day.” —Makena Huey, Managing Editor
“I only download social media apps when I want to post something — and then I delete them right after I post. This way, I’m not consumed with checking likes and comments and can focus on the task at hand. My screen time goes way down when I do this, and I’m generally happier and less distracted because of it.” —Grace Wood, News Assistant Editor
“I’ve found going on prayer walks particularly helpful with disconnecting from technology and reconnecting spiritually. I focus on breathing and giving time for God to say what He wants. I’ve also found music to be essential with the transition between busyness and quiet reflection. For me, that’s playing the guitar, but you could also listen to worship music; I recommend instrumental, since words can be distracting, and to turn your phone on airplane mode. Also read the Bible — there’s some good stuff in there.” —Lindsey Sullivan, Podcast Producer
“The most helpful thing I do to unplug is spend time with my family and focus on them. Even a short amount of time with family reminds me that the assignment I’m stressed out about is not that big of a deal in the long run.” —Rowan Toke, Life & Arts Editor
“If I feel overwhelmed by Zoom and school, I’ll pick up a book, get out an embroidery project, draw up a sketch or sit on my back porch and watch the birds. Before COVID-19, I thought having such mundane pastimes was a little silly because I lived on a campus full of my friends, and they were always down to go on adventures. But now that I’m stuck in my childhood bedroom, all of the simple, quiet hobbies I’ve maintained over the years have risen to the surface, and I’m so grateful to have coping mechanisms at my disposal that don’t rely on having a lot of money, company or energy for me to do.” —Madeline Duvall, Art Editor
“I like to go outside to shoot hoops or throw the ball for my dog. You have to be intentional about moving around since you don’t have the built-in exercise of walking all over campus.” —Paxton Ritchey, Sports Assistant Editor
“Between coordinating group projects and my remote jobs, I do a lot of messaging throughout the day, so I’ve found it helpful to compartmentalize communications. To avoid clogging up texts and my ever-growing inbox, I try to keep all work-related stuff on Slack. Slack feels much more organized than email, and I love that I can mark messages as unread — a feature I wish texts had — to respond to later. Named GroupMe channels and such are also a great, free alternative, especially when that one group project member has an Android.” —Marisa Dragos, Video Producer
“I relish time outdoors and use it as a way to clear my mind. I try to play beach and grass volleyball at least once a week with friends. I make as much effort as possible to eat dinner with others — safely, of course — and I’ve also started to cook more because I’m trying to not be as reliant on takeout. So I’ve learned new recipes and make stuff on my own, and I take all the moments away from the computer I can.” —Ali Levens, Photo Editor
“I bought this book on psychological disorders and medical treatments that I read when I get overwhelmed or exhausted. It categorizes all of the disorders by type and gives resources for more information. If I’m not in the mood to read, though, I’ll open up my old choir binder and sing the songs I performed in high school or my first semester of college. Music is one of my best ways to destress. Sometimes I’ll even try to touch my toes while doing vocal warmups so I can both exercise and unwind.” —AJ Muonagolu, Perspectives Assistant Editor
“I don’t like responding to texts or emails while I’m trying to take a break, which is usually on the weekends. Just watching sports with my family — like on football Sundays — helps relieve stress, too, and making a social event out of it.” —Sofia Longo, Life & Arts Assistant Editor
“I spend a lot of time playing and writing music, and I like reading physical books — not Kindle books — so that’s also kept me away from screens. I would tell others wanting to unplug that there are hundreds of hobbies out there that don’t involve technology, so go out and find one you like doing; there has to be something out there for you. Learn it in your spare time. And step away from the computer between classes for at least an hour if you can.” —Kaelin Mendez, Head Podcast Producer
The Graphic staff helps each other disconnect by reducing tasks, working ahead of deadlines and allowing flexibility in schedules. We still deal with rigid timetables, of course, and it can be admittedly difficult to touch base with all the people we need to about the many class and commitment demands we endure on a weekly basis. Compassion and communication are key in any successful community.
While our team cannot provide readers with a one-size-fits-all plan to unplug, we have found this much to be true: When we detach from technology, we encourage others to detach as well.
Whatever it takes to make that screen time slightly more bearable.
Follow the Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic