Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Go do not disturb

How an assignment turned into a wake-up call
Courtesy of Domenico Loia (Unsplash)

I recently had a class requiring me to participate in a 48-hour news blackout. Instead, I put my phone away for four days — a total of 96 hours. It’s often considered impossible for young adults today, but it was kind of forced upon me to sit Shiva. Honestly, I didn’t know if I could do it.

While 96 hours may seem like a long time, I wished it were longer.

My Jewish religious family has a tradition of coming together when a family member passes. Just three weeks ago, it was my grandpa, Dr. Nelson Goodman — a philanthropist, physician, poet and, overall, the kindest man you could ever meet.  He had a specific way of looking at the world; a scientific and generous way. His beloved wife, my grandma, passed a few years prior, leaving everything in order and the rest of his life planned out. He ate the same meals, walked the same path and continued his routine.

He was an independent man who would’ve done absolutely anything to help others, and he did. He donated every penny he earned, donated his body to science and left his family knowing that he loved us. There was never a question left unanswered. He was wise and kind with his words.

This tradition held after a death allows families to leave the rest of the world and be with one another during a time of loss. There was no connection to the outside world, I was just with my family — telling stories and recounting memories is all we did for four days. My family did a very relaxed version of sitting Shiva compared to strict followers, but its purpose was still there; it was our time to mourn, our time to remember.

There’s no rule book on how to mourn, no specific way to heal or deal with death, no step-by-step instructions on what to do, how to feel or even what to say. You realize this is just a part of life and a part of being human. Technology isn’t a part of being human, even though we’ve been so convinced it is. Connections, family and memories are.

The second I got the call, my grandpa moved on. I hopped in the car and headed home. When I pulled into the driveway, the rest of the world began to fade away. I knew the sun was rising and setting, and chaos in the world continued, but it didn’t seem important. Honestly, I had completely forgotten about my assignment. It was refreshing to disconnect from the constant barrage of negative news and focus on the memories with my family. It made me crave more moments of uninterrupted connection. It made me realize that the bombardment of propaganda can have a detrimental effect on our approach to human connection.

I was reminded to be mindful of how I choose to spend my time and energy, and that it’s essential to take a step back and prioritize connections with those who truly matter.

My 96-hour blackout was so important, and yet, the second I got back online, I felt I had to catch up on what I missed. What seemed to be large headline stories about the Oscar winners, Donald Trump’s legal cases and other stories flooded my stream at all hours of the day.

We are glued to screens and thinking we need to be updated every minute of the day. Everything hurts someone’s feelings, everything is negative, people are dying and the world is a hateful place. But is it just right now? It has been a sad world for as long as I can remember. Sure, I’m young, but it doesn’t seem to be getting any better any time soon. Everyone is fighting for their opinion to be louder and more significant than the last. Headlines are more extensive than ever, notifications are constant — and this death was a wake-up call to put the phone down.

It’s time to be more aware of what technology is doing to us, and to realize we don’t need to be updated on every single little piece of information provided. Put down the phone and talk to each other. I loved getting away from it all and just being with my family. It forced me to be present with the most important people in my life. Staying up to date with the news is essential, and I take pride in paying attention and being informed, but I was happy to get away. It made me realize how important it is to take a break from the chaos and focus on the people I care about most. It’s a reminder of the importance of being present and enjoying life’s simple yet necessary moments.

Willa Lehner can be reached at [email protected].

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