OPINION | Disengaging from politics this holiday season

Doxey Kamara, Intersections Editor

The holidays are a time for rest — but can one responsibly take a break from something as important as politics? (Will Embree)

Politics can be a hard thing to ignore. Particularly as social media usage has skyrocketed during the pandemic — exposing more people to political figures and viewpoints — it can feel like political discourse is inescapable. The holidays are typically viewed as a chance to relax and spend time with family, and talking politics risks conflict.

While some holidays, like Thanksgiving or Presidents Day, have an inherently political existence, Christmas has a much less storied past. Thanksgiving commemorates American colonization and even today, perpetuates a certain myth about how America was created. Modern Christmas, while it hasn’t entirely escaped politics, carries more of a religious connotation than a political one.

And while one can celebrate Christmas without engaging with politics, some may believe it irresponsible. The political machine does not sleep, and one may be tempted to fill their holiday free time with advocacy efforts or other political work. For example: members of marginalized communities, who are uniquely trapped in the political sphere, might feel obligated to continue working towards social reform.

However, political discourse will still exist after this holiday season. Taking a break from political engagement constitutes laziness. If you feel a need to stop interacting with politics over the holidays, it may be your wisest option to do so. One in 10 Americans feel politics adversely affected their health, and the ongoing pandemic has dramatically worsened global mental health — particularly among young people.

Essentially, self-care means knowing when to step back. While the holidays are a great opportunity to discuss politics, particularly with friends and family, they are an even better opportunity to recover from a very eventful year. 

But how does one disengage from politics when the topic seems to be inescapable? It’s one thing to refrain from participating, but avoiding exposure seems almost impossible. Television and social media feeds, which average Americans spend about 2.5 hours a day each consuming, are full of political commentary. 

A healthy way to address this problem may be to unplug. While social media use can have a positive impact on one’s mental health, more than two hours of daily use is linked with poorer mental health. Furthermore, increased social media use is linked with decreased quality of sleep — and sleep deprivation is linked with a decline in mental health. Even if not entirely separating oneself from social media, reducing use to about 30 minutes a day is also linked with a reduction in stress levels. Consuming more entertaining content, as opposed to news or discourse, is also linked with a decline in stress.

The holidays are a unique opportunity to relax and take care of yourself. Taking advantage of it, particularly by choosing what you engage with, is ultimately a healthy choice. While politics carry importance, so do you — remember to practice self-care when the chance arises.