I deleted the BBC News app from my phone. Should I need to know significant headlines, then everything will be on the Financial Times app, a subscription to the FT online being the one indulgence I allow myself, anything else is dross, most of it being annoying dross.
If there is such a thing as “news addiction,” then I was definitely a news addict. If there is not such a condition, perhaps there should be. It is a clinical condition whereby one feels compelled to turn on the radio or television at every opportunity lest something might have happened and, should something have happened, a feeling of need to listen to repeated analyses of the stories.
I was addicted to news. I used to watch the television news, even when I was at primary school, not that I understood most of it. Life on the television news seemed to make sense. On the news, in the gentle voices of the reporters, the world seemed a controlled and ordered place. I didn’t understand the awful things that were happening in Vietnam, but I assumed that the good guys were winning and that everything would be all right in the end. When stories were reported on industrial disputes and strikes, I was always confident that there would be a good end to the story.
The story of an outbreak of Covid-19 at a nursing home in Ireland reminded me of a man I knew who once spent the winter months there.
He lived in a mobile home beside a country road. While sociable, while enjoying the company of callers, while taking a taxi into the town every week to collect his pension, he was a man without interest in the news. He had no television, no radio, and read no newspapers. He felt no need to connect with the world beyond the rural community in which he lived.
Calling with him regularly, I would wonder sometimes how he coped without a radio or a television. A man with a keen sense of Irish history, or a keen sense of his version of Irish history, he felt no need to hear about the world of the present time.
Sometimes, in very remote and rural places, I wondered if there was not a sense of being cut off from the world. I have come to realize that in a world where one can do little to change things, hearing no news and living one’s own life might not be such bad choice.