True confession – while I like to think that I take good care of myself, a more honest assessment of my lifestyle would reveal that I have a multitude of bad habits that clearly fall into the category of being damaging to my health and wellbeing.
I am overly fond of good food and have an irrepressible sweet tooth. I like all the wrong things – read: milk chocolate and white wine. Exercise? I actually managed to fail high school gym class, barely survived the not-so-rigorous physical demands of IDF basic training, and all later attempts to take up any kind of athletic endeavors have proved, while initially sincere, exceedingly short-lived. To be frank, my idea of sports is Macy’s on a sale day. My daily footwear-of-choice is precisely the type of four-inch stilettos that doctors admonish against. I love nothing more than to laze on the beach and to soak up the mid-day rays. And as a translator and interpreter who serves international clients, I work way too many hours spread out over far too many time zones.
So, hmmm… healthy lifestyle? Perhaps not-so-much. Notwithstanding, I have come to the conclusion that all of these habits together pale in comparison with the one that is most deeply deleterious to my health. Yes, I am talking about my news addiction.
Simply put, the news is my crack cocaine. The unrelenting rhythm of my constant media habit has me in a state of perpetual angst. So, why don’t I turn it off? Why can’t I just say no – or even say yes, less often?
I work at a computer with five monitors – one of them is invariably set to scroll through all of the Israeli and the major foreign news sites, which I do all day, every day. Facebook and Twitter feed me an unabated stream of articles, commentary and news items that I often cannot help but react to with agitation and anxiety. My mobile devices ping incessantly with notifications that upset my equilibrium. Most nights, I eat with Yonit. Print media, news sites, radio, television news – these updates are both the content and the punctuation of my daily routine. I reach for the news first thing in the morning, persistently throughout the day and – I confess – often in the middle of the night, especially in times of tension. And while Shabbat is an ideal respite for many, I do not chose to partake in the digital disconnect.
I know that I am not alone. Because in our precarious national state of existential uncertainty, we need to know. Everything. All the time.
Why ? Toward what end?
The unfathomable horrors of ISIS. The palpable fear that a new intifada is brewing. The incendiary potential of the conflict over the Temple Mount and the crawling burn of violence in Jerusalem. The ominous threat of Hezbollah tunnels in the north and the dire warnings of what the next war holds in store for us. Hamas. The Islamic Jihad. Al-Qaeda. Chemical weapons falling into the wrong hands. Rapidly deteriorating relations between Israel and the U.S. Administration – not to mention the sorry state of affairs with the rest of our allies. The world’s willingness to come to terms with an almost-nuclear Iran. And let’s not even get started on the government and domestic issues.
It’s real. And it’s enough to make anyone crazy. But will any of this change if I read about it only once a day? Or (gulp) once a week? What is the fine line between being well-informed and harming ourselves by our obsessive and insatiable thirst to know?
I sometimes wonder – what would happen if I just stopped? What would I do with all of that freed-up time and mental energy? Imagine the books I could be reading, instead of consuming – and worrying about – all that news. The friends I could make time for. The hobbies I could take up. Maybe I could get even some exercise – or bake a tray of sugary meringues.
Now, I am no more likely to give up my news habit than I am to permanently swear off (milk) chocolate, engage in daily sweat sessions at the gym, stay out of the sun or – perish the thought – give up my beloved high heels. But lately, I am becoming more aware of the effect that this endless media consumption, this steady drill of doom and distress has on me. I am starting to catch myself asking “do I really need to read this?” or “how is this making me feel?” and sometimes brazenly daring to ditch the remainder.
I guess it’s a start.