I’ve taken the first step in beating my addiction; I’ve admitted I am addicted to the news and helpless in the face of it.
I’m willing to turn it over to a higher power, but I don’t know who or what could keep me from my daily, even hourly fix. I thought when the election was over I could sleep through the night without scanning my phone or snapping on the news, but when nature calls I get up, despite how cozy I am, and I can’t go back to sleep until I’ve checked to see if something even more egregious than trying to subvert democracy or killing another quarter of a million people has happened in the midnight hours.
I’ve skipped a few steps in the 12 Step program, like making amends to everyone I’ve bored, exhausted or pissed off with my fixation on the news. I’ve ignored my family, monopolized all conversations that don’t have to do with the current and next Presidents, the risks of another Civil War, and even the latest terrible surge of the Corona virus, whose only silver lining is that at least I won‘t have to share a Thanksgiving holiday with that benighted Trumpster relative who somehow sneaked into the family when I wasn’t looking.
I’ve cut the cord with Comcast, so all I can stream is CNN Go, which offers an 8 minute preview of what’s happening now before they cut you off. For a while I could get both CNN and MSNBC live – or a half hour later, which is the standard streaming delay—but Advance, the Roku site that hosted them, abruptly terminated those channels this summer. Roku does provide one somewhat live news source free – unfortunately it’s Fox.
As for the networks, they’re available on delay, but I’ve never been one to postpone gratification, even for half an hour. I’ve put my subscriptions to the Washington Post and the New York Times on hiatus, and I clear their digital notifications from my phone before I read them. I’ve mostly ditched Facebook and Instagram and totally eliminated Twitter, although I still scroll innocently through current videos featuring cute dogs and Far Side cartoons. If there were any place to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations I might be more au courant with what’s happening, but the most interesting ones were never about politics anyway.
Still, I’m an addict. Despite my attempts to avoid it, news seeps in from the ozone layer, which is a kind of mental media that tells me what people are doing, feeling and thinking about. In my writing career, my ozone layer has alerted me to some trends early enough to look for statistical or demographic evidence or conduct enough interviews to get a book proposed and sold.
What my ozone layer tells me right now is that most people are tired of the news, even as the Covid surge is vying for top of the fold headlines with the latest petulant tweet by the sorest loser in history. Everyone in line at the supermarket and standing around the dog park is chattering about the difficulty of finding turkeys small enough to feed only the immediate family for Thanksgiving, whether you need a reservation to ski Stevens or Crystal, how important it is to put on a bra and pants that zip up even for a Zoom meeting, and why your grown kids never come home for Thanksgiving, even when there’s not a pandemic.
I might get a book out of that last one, if I hadn’t already written it. I replace the quart of chocolate salted caramel ice cream in my shopping basket with today’s edition of the New York Times and toss in the WSJ for good measure…
Sometimes replacing one addiction with another works for a while, but after you’ve gained the Corona 15, you realize you’ve failed, and that a policy of harm reduction might be the best you can do.