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“I don’t read the news”

I don’t read the news. That might sound shocking, and a little sensationalist, and that’s because it is a little shocking and quite a bit sensationalist, but at the heart of it lies something true. Like a lot of my peers, reading the news has been stressing me out. When reading a newspaper, my hand itches to flick to the Culture section, but there’s always something in me that makes me read the news first. Call it a goody-two-shoes syndrome or a masochistic flair, but I compulsively read the news section before proceeding to stress about it for the next minute, hour, day, or even week. My longest streak has actually been years – when my school kept on showing us climate change documentaries, so I proceeded to make my own deodorant, toothpaste, and soap for the next year. That streak promptly ended when my mum had to have a sit-down intervention with me about how much I smell. I don’t want to yuck anyone’s yum, but growing up for me meant recognising the fact that I am simply not equipped to make my own cosmetic products. And by my standards, that is growth.

Going back to the news anxiety of it all, this compulsive need to stay up to date with current affairs at the expense of my mental health (and personal hygiene) led me to reassess the way I inform myself. The way I get the news nowadays involves a two-step process and a lot of moxie. Step one, where I read the Instagram posts from outlets like The Times, along with their captions, and call it a day. Step two is a bit riskier and involves the trickle-down effect of receiving a wildly inaccurate yet extremely entertaining version of a current affair, after which I then have to go do some research so that I don’t look like a fool if the story turns out to be false. Like the other day, when I recounted a vividly gripping account of a man waking from a decade-long coma that I had heard from a friend, only to have another friend show me that it was a Reddit story.

In moments like this, not reading the news is so embarrassing (and maybe secretly a little funny). Am I part of the fake news problem? Should I inform myself a bit better? I am self-aware enough to realise that this is sad. I am a twenty-one-year-old woman, so I better start acting like one. On the other hand, though, I’ve got to protect my inner peace. If I don’t look out for my MVP, who will?

Jokes aside, nowadays the news are really tricky to navigate. I know that I’m not the only one who feels uninformed but also dreads reading sensationalist headlines about the latest climate catastrophe, the newest economic crisis, or a current femicide. I don’t have the answers to the perfect balance, but I do think that complete ignorance cannot be the answer. I have embarrassed myself one too many times after adopting that particular coping mechanism, so I will not be partaking in the practice anymore, thank you. But, compulsively reading the news during a machoistic streak is not it either. I wish I was Dolly Alderton so I could give myself some kick-ass advice, but alack, I am not, and I will have to learn to deal with that. Maybe it’s okay not to have all the answers just yet, and maybe it’s okay to read newspapers through their social media accounts rather than their fatalistic hardcopies that make you flick through all the news before getting to the good stuff. Maybe I should just accept my Gen Z-ness and embrace this whole digital thing.

I still don’t read the news. At least not in the traditional, sit-down-with-the-paper-and-my-coffee sort of way. My way is the more experimental, sit-on-the-toilet-scrolling-through-my-phone sort of way –­ but who can judge a multi-tasking queen? Certainly not me, that’s for sure.

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