I’m certain that I am not the only person formerly addicted to watching the news, intensely interested in happenings around the world and at home. I woke up to NPR, its morning news preparing me for a day at the office and in the classroom. I was armed with facts about current events to discuss with students and colleagues. I kept abreast of the challenges facing our soldiers abroad and what their circumstances might mean for family members with whom I had to interact. I could talk informatively with my foreign students, and I kept up with events in countries in which I had made friends over years of travel and working for the UN.
I started my evening unwinding with a glass of wine while watching the various 5:00 p.m. cable news programs and continued through dinner right up to 10:00 p.m., when I switched to reading a good spy novel or mystery to clear my head and get me ready for a night’s sleep.
Did my passion for news occasionally result in terrible stress and anxiety? Yes, of course it did: troops invading Iraq, bombings in Paris, beheadings in the Middle East, deforestation, wildfires, tsunamis, and other assorted natural and man-made catastrophes. But my passion also helped to inform me about who needed help or donations, who needed a letter of concern, who needed a kind word.
The news informed my activism, my energy, and my humanity. It was worth some sleepless nights, fraught with fears of helplessness.
And then COVID-19 hit and, with it, nightly briefings from the White House. It was too much. I had used up the few Xanax I had stashed away for emergencies. I had given up wine at the onset of arthritis. I did not have the strength to endure watching and listening to the president, and then watching and listening to the talking news heads regurgitate the president’s outrageous performance. Even when that charade finally ended, cable news had so devolved into hyperbole and bias that it even cast doubt on my reliable NPR and BBC reports. I still trusted them, but the content was simply too disturbing to absorb. I was done! I had long ago abandoned social media; now I have quit TV news as well.
In my email inbox, I still get the daily New York Times headlines, which I quickly peruse every morning to make sure the planet is still spinning on its axis. Otherwise, I rely on friends around the world to send me text messages about anything important.
With the pandemic, I gave up binge and recreational shopping. That has been great for my wallet. Now I have given up binge and recreational news watching. That has been great for my mental health.
As insane and chaotic as the world was before Trump, nothing prepared me for this onslaught of crazy that has come with his presidency—a world where one is compelled to hunker down and hide.