You Should Know… Kate Perelman

Photo by Dan Schere

Kate Perelman prefers looking at sunsets to looking at screens. The 32-year-old Washington resident confines her social media use to her job at the nonprofit Americans United for Separation of Church and State, where she is a digital campaign strategist. But whenever she isn’t chained to her desk, she’s reading, running or relaxing with her parakeet.

What was your Jewish upbringing like?
I grew up in York, Pa., which is a really small town. It’s not a hotbed of Jewish activity. So I got a lot of my real Jewish relationships from Camp Louise [a Jewish Camp in Cascade, Md.]. I go back to York for the High Holidays, but it’s just mostly to see people.

Did you make a lot of friends at Camp Louise?
Most of my friends are camp friends. There were no screens when we went to camp in the ‘90s and early 2000s. There were no cell phones allowed at camp. We wrote letters. It was so incredible when we were allowed to send emails. I’m too old to be a digital native. The upcoming generation … they’ve been opened up to a whole set of experiences due to technology. But they also lost out on some things that we valued. It’s a tradeoff.

But your job is one that deals with technology.
It is. I do a lot of the social media. I’m in charge of our web presence. I scan Twitter for interesting news stories. Things like that. Because of what I do, I spend a lot of time reading the news, and that stresses me out. I have a rule that on the weekend, I do not go on Twitter. Because otherwise I would go insane. That probably is right up there in the top 10 stressors of my life.

How do you de-stress?
I read. I run. I interact with my bird. But I’m like everyone else. I have my phone attached to my hip. But if I see a sunset over by the Potomac [River], I’m going to stop and look at it. It’s gorgeous. There’s balance to be had, and I think it’s really difficult to find that balance these days.

You’re a bird enthusiast.
We’re a bird family. We’ve had multiple parakeets. I have a parakeet now, and my parents have a conure, who is incredible. He’s like a dog who will live for 20 years. They’re great. They all have different personalities and likes and dislikes. People think birds are more like fish, but really you interact with a bird. Birds are flock animals. They form really intense interpersonal relationships with that flock. When there isn’t a flock around, they form an interpersonal relationship with whoever is around. That’s generally the human. You spend a lot of time with them. When you see them, the body language is, ‘It’s you. I love you. You’re home. Let’s hang out.’ It’s really nice. I think the world would be a better place if people took some solitude time and looked at birds.

Tell me one other non-screen experience that moved you.
For a while I did a lot of traveling, and I studied in Scotland. At the end of college I had to make up some credits from studying abroad, because not everything transfers. I saw this poster that was a two-week trip to China that would cover three classes. The price was right and the credits were what I needed.

That was during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and there was a huge earthquake. It was strange, because in Beijing, everyone’s just going about their business. They were very centered on the world coming to Beijing, but a group of American students came stumbling into our hotel. They clearly hadn’t showered in forever and had been in the epicenter of the earthquake. It was incredible. When you’re a Westerner in China, you’re the center of attention. You don’t want to be, but you are.

Later, we were all invited to this candle-lighting ceremony. It was so different from when you see these ceremonies on the news that are put on by the government. It was this organic memorial that was happening and was something I’ll never forget.

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