Addicted to the news

Barney Zwartz reflects on how the current pandemic has magnified his obsession with the news, and how this addiction comes at a cost.

My wife and I react to coronavirus in opposite ways when it comes to the news. She now avoids the news almost entirely because it is always about COVID-19 and always depressing, whereas my news addiction has only intensified.

I spend at least some of the time provided by Melbourne’s lockdown unwisely on the Internet, following the news where it takes me for several hours a day. I subscribe to four newspapers plus the Spectator, and at least a dozen daily newsletters from religious and secular groups.

I first became aware that I am obsessed when on holiday at a remote location a couple of decades ago. I was determined just to relax with my family, but somehow every morning at 10.55 I found myself loitering at the local shop, where the paper would arrive at 11. I told myself my family were having so much fun they wouldn’t notice – and no one said anything.

And even today I try not to focus too much on the pandemic, because people are still writing about politics, religion, philosophy, music and sport. But all these hours at the computer come at a cost, not least to the waistline. And after a while it all blurs in what I laughingly call my mind.

I’m not sure what this says about me. Nothing good, of course. I have no illusion that knowledge (if that’s what it is) brings control. Between us, my wife and I perfectly illustrate Mark Twain’s dictum that we can either ignore the newspapers and be ill-informed or read them and be misinformed.