Week 55: I Had Me A News Fast

Friday, 18 January 2019

Reading time 2 minutes 48 seconds 

There is no such thing as addiction, there’s only things you enjoy doing more than life – Doug Stanhope.Devouring the news has taken up a big part of my existence. Typically, I spend 1-2 hours every day immersed in it, discussing and contemplating it which makes me a bit of a junkie. If the news was heroin I’d probably be dead by now or at the very least slimmer with less possessions.

My previous addictions have covered nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, Gears of War, various jobs, coconut water, and shoes. This is a normal list for most people my age and truth be told they were only the tip of the iceberg. I have put more effort into current affairs than my relationships with friends and lovers and believed that staying informed, and up to date, would mean I wasn’t ignorant.

I’m unsure how I got to this point in my life and when I moved from reading the Beano to the Sun and did not notice the difference. 

In January 2018 I decided to quit all news for 12 months and now I’m reviewing my year away. Has my life changed? Was it worth it or was the sacrifice too much? 

Looking back, I was scared about quitting and whether I could have an opinion or get angry about a person or event. Without knowing what’s occurring in the present I wondered how I would prepare for the future and if the Zombie apocalypse happened, or worse a Bird Box event, how I would survive.

A ban meant a total ban. No Newspapers, no news channels, no social media news, and finally my biggest sacrifice no Radio 4. This was proper cold Turkey. Given I’d quit alcohol and coconut water I wondered how hard quitting the news could be? Turns out it was one of the hardest.

The first few weeks were difficult. I’d reach for my phone and realise it had lost most of its appeal. I’d get in the car and the radio would be tuned to classic FM. I found myself longing to hear the shipping forecast, but I couldn’t risk dipping in case I heard the news by mistake.

I would listen to people talk about Trump or Brexit and had nothing to contribute. When latching onto very small bits of information about world affairs I’ve failed to understand most of them because big parts have been missing. I thought Reesmogg was the welsh equivalent of long grain Cat food and have been asked if I’m not scared by “The Russian” thing. Royal weddings have happened, and celebrities have died that I know nothing of. Although my friends who know me well would WhatsApp me the important ones. RIP Burt Reynolds. 

I have been told by other news junkies that I don’t have a right to an opinion on any subjects. Like Donny from The Big Lebowski I have no frame of reference but I’m fine with that as that guy died happy. (Spoiler alert). 

Most news stories seem weird without knowing some context and curiosity killed the Mat on more than one occasion. As much as I tried to avoid stories sometimes a newspaper headline had to be explored. For example “Beheading at Labour sex party” on the front page of the Standard. 

In a way it has felt like learning to touch type. Initially it was difficult, but it gets easier and you get to a point where you ask why you didn’t always work this way. An extra chunk of time has become available to me every day and by concentrating on other things, I have wasted my time on them instead. I can now complete the 4×4 Rubik’s cube. 

I’m not ignorant. I’m just not fully aware of the detail that some people are. I’ve learnt that I can affect no change on the world and whilst one person can make a difference they really need to want to. I didn’t.

The most important thing I’ve discovered is that people who follow news and current affairs are miserable. They seem to have a fatalistic doom about them and everything is terrible. Whereas in my new tribe (I’m calling us “The news ignoramuses”) we are enjoying a happier existence. The Ignoramuses have worries but they are centred around their loved ones (and Strictly Come Dancing) which sometimes can be the same thing. 

My Name is Mat and I’ve now been 12 months clean and can honestly say I’m a happier person for my fast as it is liberating not being connected to things you have no control over. Will I return to my news junkie way? No! I will continue to make a conscious effort to not touch the News.

Obviously, this excludes Football news. I’m not a machine and a man has to eat.

Picture: Me in a cigar factory