Perspectives: Lessons learned from a trip to Yellowstone

Stock image | Photo of family picnic courtesy of H. Armstrong Roberts via Getty Images/Retrofile RF Getty; phone image courtesy of Pixabay, St. George News

OPINION — Remember what life was like before mass media and social media became the norm?

I was pretty sure I did until I did a media fast last week as my family and I traveled to Yellowstone National Park.

My son David is working for the summer on Bill Cody Ranch near Yellowstone and that’s where we stayed during our visit.

The setting was simply spectacular.

All around us were towering mountains and canyon walls, roaring rivers and thick stands of pine and quaking aspen. If you love nature, it’s a little slice of heaven. On the other hand, if you’re deeply attached to Wi-Fi or clear cellular service, you’re in for an adjustment.

There was no cell service at the ranch and slow and spotty Wi-Fi was available only in the lodge. Escape via television was not an option either since there wasn’t a TV in any of the cabins.

We had no choice but to embrace the reality right in front of us and make the best of it. For some of us, that can feel a lot like being dropped into the Stone Age.

After a brief period of adjustment, my media fast turned out to be a far better experience than I could have imagined.

For starters, the angst and conflict that typifies so much of what’s being reported on and discussed simply faded into irrelevance. It was amazing how normal the world began to appear after just a couple of days without media.

As a society, we’ve crossed the threshold of strenuously disagreeing online to actively following people around and shouting them down to make our point. That’s unhealthy on both an individual and a societal level.

Many of us, without realizing it, have developed a serious addiction to bad news. Most of what is reported by our mass media tends to focus on the worst things that people are doing or saying to one another.

Constant exposure to this type of information can become what writer Claire Wolfe refers to as a “daily dread supplement” that makes us feel anxious and worried about things that likely don’t even directly affect us. Everything we view through a media filter is subject to someone else’s spin.

Stepping away from the constant drumbeat of gloom and doom frees us to notice the good and the beautiful things around us. It allows us to see ourselves and to see others in a less distorted light.

Once freed from our mental blinders, it’s astonishing how our ability to influence the world for the better increases.

This is because we’re able to recognize the things over which we have genuine impact rather than obsessing about things where we have no control. The most unhappy people you’ll meet have generally forgotten this distinction.

There are a surprising number of practical benefits to a media fast.

Without everyone staring at the screen of their phone, tablet or laptop and relieved of the temptation to stare at a TV screen, we rediscovered one another. Our time was spent playing card games, hiking, taking photos and the underrated pastime of simply conversing.

We also had the opportunity to meet and visit with a wide variety of people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds. No one seemed concerned about whether someone held the appropriate attitude toward a particular issue.

Complete strangers felt comfortable stepping forward to help change a flat tire or to assist one another without weighing the potential ideological implications. We seemed to see each other more clearly.

As we visited with one of David’s coworkers at the campfire one evening, she expressed her admiration of our son, telling us, “God is with him.” As a parent, I don’t think a compliment has ever touched my heart the way that hers did.

How often do we miss such qualities in others because we’re too busy jockeying for status?

Even though our media fast was just a few days, I’m convinced that my family came away stronger and happier for this experience. It was a reminder that we have greater say over our mental well-being than we’re sometimes led to believe.

I can’t speak for everyone but I found myself feeling intense gratitude for the sights and relationships we were experiencing. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the good things right before us.

A media fast isn’t about turning our backs on reality. It’s about consciously choosing what adds value to our lives and deliberately limiting the more toxic influences. It’s a type of recalibration that is difficult to appreciate until you’ve experienced it.

If you’ve found yourself feeling weighed down with what’s coming at you from the screens in your life, consider taking a break and seeing what the world looks like through your own filter.

You might just find it to your liking.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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4 Comments

  • No Filter July 2, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    Good to finally read an article that isn’t political in any way. Good read Bryan.

    • RadRabbit July 2, 2018 at 4:39 pm

      I have to agree it’s almost too much anymore everywhere you look.

  • statusquo July 2, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    Same thing happened to me during a trip to Hawaii last fall. Spent so much time on the beach and other activities away from the news I determined it was not necessary and turned it off when I returned home. Except local news which keeps me informed about all that is really important in my life. I find my blood pressure is lower when my focus is on things I actually have some control over as compared to national and world politics that I don’t.

  • commonsense July 2, 2018 at 8:48 pm

    There is such angst amongst half our country that you’d think the sky is falling. Truth is, America is doing quite well. Maybe the best it’s been in my three fourths of a century. The mass media and social media really stirs the pot to sell copy or self-promote.

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