A day before my flight to Rome, my phone got stolen.
I managed to get my hands on an old iPhone but it couldn’t download much (aka my folder of news apps). I didn’t even bother getting Twitter on it, I know, that’s drastic, but I felt so upset my phone was stolen, my heart wasn’t ready to put in the effort for a temporary replacement.
For that reason, I was a bit cut off from news for the duration of my trip.
Though it was nice to stay in my holiday bubble, it came with a tonne of withdrawal anxiety.
Being on top of major news is not only part of my job but it’s become an obsession. I keep several news apps on my phone, compare headlines, read daily briefs on commutes, ravage my favourite journalists’ Twitter accounts and cherish every weekly copy of The Economist we receive at work. I see it not only as an opportunity to learn about my community and the world, but to improve my writing.
When I was in Sicily, I caught a glimpse of a TV in a coffee shop with images of blazing fires on the screen. With no context to where it was because the narration was in Italian, I forced myself to divert the attention to the leftover foam at the bottom of my cappuccino.
As one of my favourite Instagram writers put it, “Someone has always clinked a cocktail glass in one hemisphere as someone loses a home in another… the fact that suffering, mundanity and beauty coincide is unbearable and remarkable.”
A friend sent me a meme about avoiding conscription and it left me really confused. I felt ignorant and selfish for only worrying about where I was going to eat my next pizza (yes, I had pizza for 4 meals in a row, no regrets).
I kept trying to justify to myself that reading the news was “work” and it was okay to detach because I was on vacation.
That didn’t work. Just because I took time off, doesn’t mean the world did too. Families were still being separated, burnt Cheetos were still making decisions that left global ripples, and no one wanted to believe her.
I was climbing an active volcano in snow up to my knees and found myself thinking about the impeachment dates and whether I’d missed the hearing already.
That followed the grim thought that knowing or not would make no difference even though I invested my entire education in believing it does.
Travel is supposed to be an opportunity to learn about yourself while seeing the world but I hated using it as a pass to ignore the news. I’d much rather stay in the know — maybe not constantly be on my phone, but catch the important headlines at the very least.
When I settled in with my new phone after coming back home, I got bombarded with Twitter updates. While I was probably giving petty instructions to a stranger to take a picture of me on Etna, humanity was at the brink of WW3.
Often friends and Uber drivers tell me they don’t watch or read the news and blanket it with rhetoric that its “fake” or “slanted”, or better yet, it makes them “sad”. Some sources have biases and a lot of the news is bad, but it’s not an excuse to avoid reality.
I’m by no means an expert on anything but I try to understand where major events are happening and why, not because this is my field, but because I live in this world and want it to be better for everyone. I use the information to make informed choices about who to vote for, where to donate and understand social and cultural values.
Choosing to not be a part of global conversations and actions provides us with insight into the privilege of where we live and the resources we have. Not being affected by climate change, politics and protests show how thick our bubble is. If we don’t make it a priority to seek the truth and stay in the know, how can we expect solutions or change?
Pinning record-breaking bushfires solely on the course of mother nature or arson or dismissing political dishevel through memes that ignite us-versus-them propaganda can cost hundreds and thousands of lives.
Not having a vision of credible truth when it’s accessible to you contributes to the perpetuation of fake news and ignorance.
Find sources you can trust, do your research, be a critical reader, compare stories but don’t blind yourself to actuality.
Also, invest in a fanny pack so your phone doesn’t get stolen.