I’m worse than a news junkie. I’m an abuser of the stuff, which is several steps up from mere consumer. I’m an addict. I’m a newsaholic. And I’m not alone; #newsaholic is a hashtag, an app, and although not yet in a proper dictionary, watch for it any time now.
In the days when newsprint reigned supreme, inevitably a relative asked at family gatherings: “Where’s Fabiola?”
Answer: In a corner, behind the newspaper hiding my face.
These days, it’s worse. I can be found immersed in the endless supply of connections to news on my iPad. Be honest, you too. You’re here reading this, most likely on social media.
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Being one of the perpetrators, a journalist tasked with critically assessing the news, I’m the last person I know who should be whining about the overabundance. But I’m suffering from a terrible case of news fatigue, thanks to the pungent combination of a Donald Trump upset victory and a Fidel Castro death foretold but no less eventful, unfolding over nine long days of touring ashes and nonstop coverage from Havana to Miami.
It’s not only the demands of living in a state of constant change and history-making events that’s exhausting, but their amplification and distortion in the social media clutter. Everyone is savant and critic. Everyone has an opinion you must read, a video you must see! Hard to tell what’s real and worthy from what’s junk, and worse yet, who’s telling the truth.
But the shooting in a popular Washington, D.C., restaurant on Sunday — motivated by the spreading of false conspiracy news — proves the point that this state of being is very bad for all of us.
News addiction is a diagnosable disease. I should know.
After a long day of work in news, I often fall asleep to the melodious voice of Charlie Rose doing an interview or our cantankerous representatives battling it out on C-SPAN reruns of congressional hearings. I’m so in my element in the company of current affairs that this kind of talk is like a lullaby. Works better at surrendering to sleep than the white-noise trinket I bought at the pharmacy.
It’s too much. You wake up programmed for battle.
On Tuesday, I saw #Moncada trending on Twitter.
Oh no, I thought, here we go again. Are we still not done burying the dictator who rose to prominence when he and a band of rebels attacked the Moncada barracks in eastern Cuba on July 26th, 1953?
Turned out the news came out of Chicago. The White Sox acquired infielder Yoan Moncada, a recent cubanito émigré considered baseball’s top prospect. Imagine my delight. It’s been that bad a year. I’ll take any good news.
Maybe it’s not the news itself that’s wearing on the soul, but the stark reality of the times: Working people voting against their own best interests and electing a wealthy autocratic right-winger. People who enjoy the privileges of democracy and should know better than to idolize a dictator by desperately reaching for some silver lining to repression. It’s alarming and disheartening.
I know of only two things that soothe the news-weary soul: giving and traveling. ’Tis the season to do both.
The Miami Herald Wish Book, the annual charity and donation drive, is full of stories about courageous people who struggle everyday against tremendous odds — and need your help. Samantha, a little girl severely burned when a pressure cooker full of scalding hot water exploded, needs a prosthetic leg. Lois, a 65-year-old cook at Goodwill Industries, needs dental help. Vernice, a young mom who was once in foster care, needs assistance to keep her family together. Donate and make a difference.
If you have time and money, buy a plane ticket, go somewhere.
Most people know Mark Twain’s famous quote about the unrivaled benefits of travel, but most people only remember the shortened version.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts,” Twain wrote in 1869. “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
There’s a recipe fit for Trumpian, post-Castro times. Try leaving your little corner.
Give, travel, and pray for better days.