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Cepeda: Curb your digital addiction with these resolutions


You know internet addiction is a real thing when you pick up a magazine targeted at young men and you find a “My Digital Detox” confessional.

Writing in Men’s Health, author Joel Stein describes addiction to screens so profound that people have neglected showering for weeks or been kicked out of their homes for not doing anything besides playing video games.

Stein checked himself into a rehab facility for online addicts after learning that he uses his phone for two and a half hours per day, not including the hours spent on his laptop. Afterward, he understood that the firehose of digital stimuli had dulled his real-life senses: “I had gotten so weak at feeling emotions that I’d gotten bad at feeling happy, too.”

There are now piles of research showing that people who spend a lot of time on social media feel more depression, inadequacy and dissatisfaction with their lives than those who don’t.

The constant exposure to posts that were specially crafted to make their users look flawless, happy, affluent and exciting either causes people to feel bad about themselves or, particularly in the case of young adults, increases their levels of anxious striving.

According to one recent study published in the American Psychological Association’s “Psychological Bulletin,” perfectionism has increased over the past 27 years among college students. The authors “speculate that this may be because, generally, American, Canadian and British cultures have become more individualistic, materialistic and socially antagonistic over this period, with young people now facing more competitive environments, more unrealistic expectations, and more anxious and controlling parents than generations before.”

Add to this the beginning-of-year assumption that self-improvement is essential for a worthwhile 2018, and there has been a crush of hand-wringing articles, editorials and blog posts about needing to do something about social and digital media dependency.

It’s a good idea to quell an addiction, however small, to electronic devices. But the usual roadblock to making positive, healthy changes—at the new year or any other time—is that our approach is almost always to reduce, restrict or abstain.

It’s one that usually fails.

How about adding on to your digital duties instead?

Here are a few of the “fix it and forget it” type of resolutions you can make:

Adjust your social media and email notifications—on your mobile devices as well as on your desktop and laptop—so that you get only truly important intrusive alerts, like texts from close family members or emails from bosses or direct reports.

Spend some time “muting,” “unfollowing” or otherwise quieting down people on your social networks who you want to stay in touch with over the long haul but whose every angry missive about the day’s politics makes you crazy.

Invest some real effort into adjusting your phone, tablet, laptop and desktop settings so that your apps can’t listen in on your conversations via their microphones and/or cameras.

(No, this is not paranoid: Hundreds of seemingly innocuous games are loaded with a software from a company called Alphonso that allows the apps to use smart-device microphones to collect data on people’s viewing habits—even when the apps are not in use.)

Now for two that are less of a drag, though still might require some habit-forming discipline:

Phone a friend. Next time you think to drop someone a text just to say “Hi,” try a quick phone call instead. Chances are, the person you call will be delighted to hear your actual voice. Neither of you is likely to gab endlessly (we’re all busy) and you’ll probably feel really good at the end.

Write something. I frequent a restaurant where a little black book is delivered along with the check. You are encouraged to leave a note for whomever might read the book next. It’s always so much fun to see others’ scribbles, their drawings, their praise for the wait staff or even a poem here or there. If you have a busy family life with people in and out of the house at all hours, leave a blank journal in a high traffic area with a “Write in Me” sign on it and just see what magically appears.

Curbing your digital routines doesn’t have to be painful. The only sure way to make a lasting change is to create positive habits to help offset the negative ones.

Guest Views: If GOP leaders really care about kids, now’s the time to prove it

For a party that champions a “pro-life” agenda, the GOP routinely turns its back on children once they leave the womb. The question isn’t just about abortion rights; it’s about making sure that all children have access to a quality life, growing up safe, healthy and well-educated.

On Sept. 30, the Republican-controlled House and Senate allowed funding to expire for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, which provided coverage for 8.9 million kids across the country whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Regardless of how anyone judges adults for their employment and financial-management choices, no child should be made to suffer just to make a political point. The parents of CHIP-eligible kids are not welfare bums, as some portray them. They are hard-working individuals whose jobs don’t pay them enough to afford private health coverage.

Until now, states have been able to sustain CHIP by dipping into reserve funds. But by the end of this month, 16 states—including California, Texas and Florida—will run out. Another 21 states’ funds will be exhausted between February and March, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Missouri’s funding is expected to last through the year.

Congressional Democrats now are drawing a hard line in negotiations with Republicans over funding to keep the federal government running past Jan. 19, when the current spending authority expires. Unless GOP leaders agree to long-term funding for CHIP, Democrats are threatening to shut down the government. The Democrats, in this case, are the ones fighting for kids’ lives.

Likewise, Democrats are demanding an end to GOP delays regarding the 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. An estimated 14,000 have lost their protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and now face a threat of deportation within the next few months.

Most of these youths came from Mexico and Central America, where gangs and drug cartels dominate street life. The threat of kidnapping, rape, human trafficking and forced participation in drug smuggling is constant—a major reason why many parents opted to cross the border illegally.

Many of the youths who registered with the government under DACA have studied in American public schools and universities, speak minimal Spanish and know little of the countries their parents left behind. Deportation would be tantamount to throwing these youths to the wolves.

It takes a particularly hard heart to turn a blind eye to their plight, or to threaten youths with deportation as a way of punishing their parents. If this isn’t at the root of the GOP agenda, then what is? The leadership has done a lousy job of matching arguments for protecting the sanctity of life with those that condemn children to hardship and suffering. Pro-life means all life, not just that of the unborn.

—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Your Views: Walker's prison plan lifted from Democrats

Walker’s prison plan lifted from Democrats

The Gazette’s “thumbs down” Monday to “politicizing plan to close youth prisons’’ misrepresents the facts.

“Walker’s plan to open smaller regional facilities makes good sense, and Democrats should acknowledge as much,’’ The Gazette stated.

Democrats have not criticized Walker’s plan. That’s because Walker’s plan was lifted from a Democratic proposal. Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, outlined what became the Walker plan to Republican and Democratic legislators and staffers at the Capitol on Nov. 29. He presented data and research in support of the plan. The Wisconsin State Journal reported the presentation on Nov. 30.

Rep. Goyke introduced Assembly Bill 791, which will close the Lincoln Hills School with the aim of converting it to an adult correctional facility. AB 791 also requires the Department of Corrections to open regional juvenile correctional centers statewide.

Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, and I are both co-sponsors.

Rep. Goyke did not criticize Gov. Walker for issuing the Goyke plan as his own idea.

In fact, Goyke commended the administration. “The new policy initiatives unveiled today demonstrates exciting progress in reforming Wisconsin’s corrections system,’’ Goyke stated.

Democrats did not criticize the Walker plan. They criticized Walker, noting that he had allowed Lincoln Hills to fester for five years before announcing “his’’ plan as he begins his re-election campaign. They criticized Walker’s attempt to find political cover for his long-running failure to act.

Walker wants to wait until after the election to begin implementing Goyke’s plan. Why wait? AB 791 is ready for legislative action now.


44th Assembly District representative

Mark these dates and be ready to vote

The Wisconsin Elections Commission estimates that voter turnout for spring elections (local non-partisan and judicial races) could range as low as 13 to 18 percent of voting-age citizens.

These are vital elections, and nothing is more important to a healthy democracy than voting. Please make sure that you are ready to vote.

Not voting may be more a function of lack of information/understanding than of apathy. Voters need a “big picture” look at coming elections.

Feb. 20 is the first election date. It’s a non-partisan primary to choose the final candidates for spring elections.

April 3 is the spring election with balloting for District 4 Court of Appeals judges, Branch 3 Circuit Court judge, Branch 7 Circuit Court judge; town and village boards; school board members; county board of supervisors; and municipal offices.

There will be a partisan primary Aug. 14 and general election Nov. 6.

Remember to vote!



Possible convention poses greatest threat to nation

Americans are facing the most grave danger in the history of the United States. Recently Wisconsin became the 28th state to call for an Article V constitutional convention. We are only six states away from the 34 needed to completely destroy the very foundation on which our country was established. There are only two types of people supporting this call, the ignorant and the traitors, which is a good argument for mandatory testing of candidates running for office. Even among the traitors, ignorance is a problem.

The reasoning behind the convention call is disguised as a balanced budget amendment. Supposedly the state senates around the nation feel Congress is not being responsible when it comes to the budget. So to fix this, the best thing they can think to do is give Congress the authority to rewrite the entire Constitution and hope that after we lose all of our rights, that there just might be a balanced budget amendment with no emergency spending clause in there somewhere.

If I had the time and space, I could list and explain at least 100 other reasons to oppose a constitutional convention. I would challenge anyone to come up with one good reason to support it.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with our Constitution. We’ve just stopped applying it. Eighty percent of our budget spending is unconstitutional, so what do we really need to change?