Confessions of a News Addict

IS NOW THE TIME TO KICK THE HABIT?

Soon after the dawn of 2020 – remember way back then? – the news was overwhelming. Junkies like me were waking up at three AM worrying about the coronavirus pandemic, economic collapse, environmental disaster, uncertainties at every turn and erratic leadership that could plunge us all into a dark hole at any moment. It was clearly a good time to lay off the news. So I tried. Repeatedly, beginning about March 15. 

I admit this up front: I am powerless over news-following. The first step in recovery is to admit one’s powerlessness. So here it is. I have a compulsion to start the day with the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle print editions; it goes back too many decades to record. Likewise PBS NewsHour. Those might not add up to an incurable addiction. But then MSNBC and CNN crept in, first as sort of companion background noise, later as entertainment during treadmill exercise after my geezer building went on lockdown. And finally, brief but compulsory glimpses of Fox News, just because I feel the need to figure out the parallel universe inhabited by so many of my fellow citizens.

Good citizenship morphed into addiction. I admitted: I am powerless over NewsJunkieism. I determined to quit, and get a decent night’s sleep.

But wait! I would tell myself, in the clear light of the morning, when friends would advise just to turn off Breaking News. I’m not totally powerless after all. I can vote. I can call my representatives, send letters and emails. I can fund immigration causes or justice workers in the trenches. I can march in the streets – well, no, I’m in quarantine. But maybe I’ll send another contribution to Amy McGrath . . . And then myself would say, “Without knowing what’s happened since breakfast? Mitch McConnell might have been hit by a falling meteor.”

See? Once you fall victim to this addiction early resolve quickly crumbles.

And then everything else fell apart, beginning with the world watching as an African American man was casually murdered by four police officers in Minneapolis. Evolving quickly into millions of ordinary people around the world joining their voices in protest. Despite the horrors wrought by opportunistic bad guys swooping in to loot and destroy, those ordinary good people represent hope for a better future that will surely emerge.

How can you not read every word? Watch every newscast? Arm yourself with accurate data to go to work for that future?

Maybe I’ll kick the habit next month.