Kim Robertson gave a happy dance as she described her recent approach to the constant stream of news coming out of the White House.
“I stopped watching the news,” she said in a sing-songy falsetto, throwing her arms in the air. “It’s been such a freeing experience.”
Despite having voted for President Donald Trump, Robertson felt that boycotting newscasts — and blocking certain particularly opinionated friends on social media — was necessary because the accelerated news cycle was causing her anxiety.
“He was the first thing I saw every day when I turned on the TV, and the last thing before I turned it off at night,” Robertson, of North Charleston, said. “He is all over Facebook, Twitter and my email.
"I finally had to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ It’s insane. It’s exhausting, and I just needed a break.”
Robertson is not alone. Lots of people are saying that post-election, the blast of news bits coming out of Washington is causing sensory overload.
Want proof? Stress runs higher in those who check their email, texts and social media accounts on a constant basis, researchers say. The antidote? Cut the cord. Do a digital detox.
“Taking a digital detox is one of the most helpful ways to manage stress related to technology use,” said Lynn Bufka, in citing the American Psychological Association’s report "Stress in America: Coping with Change," released last month.
Bufka, APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy, said the best action is self-control. “Constant checkers could benefit from limiting their use of technology and presence on social media,” she said.
But while research shows that 65 percent of Americans think that taking a “digital detox” is important for their mental health, only 28 percent of them report they have actually unplugged.
More news, not less
Ramon Gomez, of Hanahan, who is not a Trump supporter, is one of those who has done the opposite. The early days of the Trump administration have turned him into a news junkie. He even affixed a television to a wall in the room in his home where he does his business consulting.
“I didn’t even have a TV in my office before Trump was president,” he said. “Now I keep the news channels on while I’m working, and I find that I’m constantly checking news sites on my phone. I’m afraid if I turn away, I’ll miss something. Sometimes he says things that just make you go ‘Wow?’ But he’s also making so many policy changes — immigration, parks, healthcare, and such — that I want to make sure I know about.”
Even those with a front-row seat to the action are struggling to keep up.
First District U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., who once preferred silence while he concentrated on work, said he now keeps his Capitol Hill office television tuned all day to CNN.
“I never would have done that before,” Sanford, of Mount Pleasant, said last week. “But just in case there is some breaking news, I’m not going to be caught flat-footed.”
There are lots of examples for the general public's media consternation: Trump dispatching press secretary Sean Spicer to chastise the White House press corps for rightfully reporting that the crowds at Trump’s inauguration did not exceed those at President Barack Obama’s. Or Trump repeating his belief that mass voter fraud contributed to his losing the popular vote to his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
And then there's all the Russia stuff. Meanwhile, Trump is still tweeting and sending out messages that range from calling the news media the “enemy of the state” to accusing former President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower.
“I do think the pace of the news out of Washington has been overwhelming,” said Tracy Holowczenko of West Ashley, a self-avowed liberal Democrat.
“It's hard for the media to keep up with his tweets and the meaning behind them, not to mention his agenda," Holowczenko added. "I think as long as '45' has a Twitter account, there will be no lull in activity or news coming out of Washington D.C.”
Summerville Republican Steven Wright agreed. But he sees the Twitter as the only way POTUS can get his message out accurately.
“The media has clearly made their position that they are not going to report fairly on the president,” Wright said. “If the media were attempting to be neutral arbiters of the truth, maybe that relationship wouldn’t be so hostile. But I think at the end of the day the president realizes that his supporters don’t watch CNN. They don’t read The New York Times. So he goes above their head and straight to the people using that social media platform.”
And some say that gets results.
“I’m not criticizing the president for using social media to push a narrative or provide information to folks,” said U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, a social media-savvy Republican from Laurens who represents the state's 3rd District. “Some of his tweets have actually led to congressional investigations, like the wiretapping.”
To tweet or not to tweet
While the majority of people aged 50 and up most often get their news on TV, about half of adults aged 18 to 49 turn to online platforms for news, according to a 2016 survey by the Pew Research Center.
“For a whole segment of the population, that’s how they communicate and how they get their news,” Duncan noted.
But Wright concedes there are negatives.
“I think sometimes maybe the tweeting is not appropriate, but it’s worked for him thus far,” he said of Trump.
Trump's tweets, especially those from the @realdonaldtrump account, have also kept his name on the lips of many late-night comedians during their monologues adding to the media whirl. Recently, for instance, several poked fun at him for his wiretap accusations against Obama.
"The White House had to set their sign back to 0," Charleston native Stephen Colbert quipped on The Late Show, showing a sign that read "The president has worked 0 days without a Twitter freakout."
And that can leave some feeling a little chagrined, even Republicans.
“I certainly wish things were handled differently,” said Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rice of Myrtle Beach's 7th Congressional District. “I think there are different ways to express opinions or information than Twitter.”
Holowczenko, who often shares her political opinions on social media, is a little more direct.
“I believe he is making a mockery of everything being the president of the United States of America stands for,” she said.
“Because I see him in a very negative light because of all of his actions during the election," she said. "It's hard for me to understand how other people could support him.”