Anyone who knew me back when I was 14 will tell you that my coping mechanism to survive puberty was extreme nerdiness. I was an avid collector of coins and stamps, badgered the local council to formally grant me permission to bury a time capsule in a local park (I must get around to that sometime) and was a paid up member of the Young Conservatives and fan of Nigel Lawson. Yes, I know.It was during this bizarre phase of my life that I began reading a daily paper to ensure I was as up to date as any 14 year old could be on all that what was wrong in the world. Nothing could break this routine. I had to know the minutiae of mid-80s politics and international relations. Then the unthinkable happen. Our family took what at the time seemed a very exotic holiday to the South of France (we were clearly doing very well as we’d only just had double-glazing installed) where for two weeks, try as I might, I had no access to a daily paper. The only thing to distract me from my distress was the shock of my mother “going topless” by the pool. Very French, I’m sure. The epiphany was on getting home and having the chance to catch up on all the news I had missed. I discovered that major events had come, been acted out, and gone again, all within my two weeks’ holiday. Events which would have had journalists working overtime and me scouring for editorial comment. They had come and gone and (here’s the thing) my life had not been effected a jot. Nothing was any different. I still had spots, my father still had a job and my mother was (thankfully) no longer enjoying liberal forms of continental expression. All of my mail biting would have been for nothing.
Since then I have hardly ever read a newspaper or watched a TV news channel. I stay informed by glancing the front pages on the news stand as I go to pay for my petrol or the scanning Google News. I figure if anything’s really important someone will tell me. If I am on a ship or in a hotel room feeling like a bit of noise and the only English channel is BBC News 24 or CNN, I can only bare it for 15 minutes before their incessant hyperbole and endless parade of “experts” drive me to throw “Philately Monthly” at the screen. Fox News is something else altogether which will be saved for further comment another time.
Try going news free for a week. It’s even more liberating that the French Riviera.