Friday, January 08, 2010
To Be More Apathetic in 2010
My name is Crispin, and I am a recovering newsaholic. This may sound like an odd addiction to fess up to but it is true and every bit as much of an addiction as one can have to any substance out there.
It all started out innocently enough. I would watch a little of the Today show before going to work in the morning or occasionally catch the local news in the evening. No big deal. I was more of a social news watcher, staying up on events just enough to be able to add my two cents to a conversation. As news went I was a complete lightweight in the beginning, not able to hold my news very well. But even in those early days I liked the feeling of watching the news. It gave me a sense of empowerment to know what was going on the world – a sense of control. However as the world has changed so has my addiction to news.
The one event that probably kicked my addiction into high gear more than anything was the September 11 attacks. As millions of other Americans, I found myself glued to the television day and night wanting to know where the next terrorist threat was going to come from. However, long after the attacks, an insatiable desire to stay informed remained. “Insatiable” really isn’t too strong of a word because this need for news really could not be satisfied. And it only got worse when Katrina happened. 9/11, scary as it was, happened pretty far away from Louisiana. It was a national disaster but it still seemed a little far removed. But when Katrina rolled through it was a different story all together and it fueled my need for news like no other event in my life.
I remember waking up early to watch the news in the morning and then listening to the news on the radio all day only to catch a few more hours of news in the evening before going to bed. The addiction was spilling into every facet of my life as addictions do. When I wasn’t watching the news I was thinking about the news I had watched or when I would be able to watch news again. And just as with the 9/11 attacks my increasingly out of control addiction to news lingered long after the rebuilding of New Orleans was well under way.
Newspapers never did it for me. I preferred much more concentrated and refined forms of news which lead me to try internet news sites, blogs, and even podcasts in addition to my daily regiment of cable news channels and radio talks shows. This only strengthened the hold of my addiction because now I could get it anywhere, anytime, and for free.
But last Spring something happened. We downgraded our cable. No more CNN. No more Fox News. No more MSNBC. For the first time in years I was cut off from my news pushers. The first few months were the hardest – the early stages of withdrawal. I found difficult to go to sleep without watching a little Anderson Cooper and how much anxiety I had when I couldn’t wake up with Fox and Friends. I was forced to go back to regular old local news which, by this time, just didn’t pack the same punch. But a strange thing began happening… I noticed that I was feeling less depressed more often, less anxious, a little more settled even. It was kind of like coming out of a fog… a news fog. As I walked away from my news pushers I found that there were actually others who were in recovery from news addiction as well and that I was not alone. By last Summer my recovery was well under way. There were days when I hardly watched the news at all, when I just checked the internet occasionally for the headlines and instead of listening to endless radio talk shows discussing news I began to listen to music again, and audio books, and non-news related podcasts. It’s as if I was beginning to experience new life that was there in front of me the whole time which I was just too distracted to see.
I confess all of this because I find myself again in a rough spot. After our recent move to the Northshore we had our cable installed and unfortunately the most basic package cable company offered included 3 cable news channels. I have been doing good so far. I don’t want to go back to the out of control life I was once living but it’s so hard when you have 24 hour access in your own home.
I have found that there is an upside to apathy, that you can know too much for your own good, that simply watching a lot of news doesn’t make you any more caring, more empowered, or even equipped to change things. So this year I want to be a little more apathetic, to not care so much about all of the things in the world that I can’t change but to be present to the things that I can change and make better. The truth is that at the end of the day I’ll still be informed. I’ll get the news without even trying to because now news is basically everywhere you look - they even show news stories on the Weather Channel (the last refuge for folks trying to escape the onslaught of cable news). So here’s to being a little more apathetic (in a good way) in 2010. Anyone want to join me on my journey into apathy?