On Push Alerts and Effective Resistance

Slate posted a great package this week about news push alerts, which have intensified greatly in the year since Donald Trump was elected. For many people these push notifications — 150 characters or so to your phone, with the hope that you then read the entire article — have interrupted dinners, soccer matches, grocery store runs. Everything is breathless and nerve-racking.

Years before the election I disabled push alerts, finding them too distracting. So I can’t exactly relate to the feelings of people who are always receiving pushes. But I’m still just as obsessive about the news in my own way, regularly refreshing the New York Times app on my phone and web site on my lap top. I usually do a circuit centered around the Times, that also includes Politico and the Washington Post. With major stories like last week’s indictment of Paul Manafort, I check in constantly throughout the day to see if anything is new.

Oh hell. I might as well sign up for push alerts.

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One acute challenge of life in 2017, whether we receive push alerts or not, is deciding what to focus on and how to respond. The Trump administration attacks the truth, and decency, with regularity and with fervor. Getting outraged constantly about all this drains the spirit, but never becoming outraged at all numbs the soul. Right after the inauguration I was outraged constantly, with rises in blood pressure to show for it. I walked around angrily and always on edge. For my own mental health I’ve decided to pick my spots, by focusing in particular on the President’s efforts to suppress votes. And in my own personal life I am re-doubling efforts to be kind and civil, as these two attributes are currently in mighty short supply.

For me getting outraged at all times would be exhausting and non-productive. Some of this is temperament, as I was never a full-throated activist even when we lived in a better world. If someone wants to march to the barricades at all times, more power to them. I am going to offer up a quieter resistance.