When Singapore reported its first case of what was known then as the ‘Wuhan Virus’ on 4 January 2020, local news outlets swarmed to report the news. I was on an internship then, and I can admit that even I was involved in this undeclared race against time to relay this significant yet dreadful statement. Back then, articles focused on adequately conveying the established facts about the virus such as its symptoms and how it spreads. People were inquisitive, curious, worried, anxious – the coronavirus was an enigma. I don’t think anyone was able to really internalise how much it would impact our lives.
I vividly remember how every single case of COVID-19 patients were reported in detail at the beginning stages of the pandemic; their gender, age and the public places they visited were revealed to the public. Most Singaporeans (myself included) were determined to stay in the loop, so we had turned our notifications on for updates from news outlets – eager for new information.
A year and a half later, I don’t think my attitude towards COVID-19 related news could be any more different due to the simple fact that I don’t read it at all. I actively avoid it at any given opportunity. Before you make any judgments, hear me out.
I am utterly exhausted and depleted from consuming news that cruelly reminds me every day that I am losing my youth – the so-called ‘best years of your life’ – to a pandemic. Simply put, it’s depressing. Every COVID-19 news notification I get on my phone is another indication of an uncertain future, of people suffering, of time wasted – just another item to add to the list of things that are contributing to my crippling mental health. Honestly, I don’t remember the precise moment where I made the decision to avoid any COVID-related news. Perhaps it really was just a fleeting idea that I decided to act on rashly but followed through with. Perhaps it was a cumulative effort that tipped me over the edge. Maybe I just didn’t have the mental capacity to deal with the constant reminder of the bleak future.
Obviously, it’s impossible to avoid all news and updates completely. I definitely read up on the current COVID situation sometimes – especially when it appears on my Twitter timeline, or when I hear through word of mouth that there have been significant changes to the COVID restrictions or new rules I should be aware of.
I know some of you may find this behaviour absolutely appalling – thinking that it’s selfish, cowardly, perhaps even irresponsible. And I don’t blame you because sometimes I wonder if what I’m doing is right... But upon reflection, I have realised that the only one who should be able to decide that is me. Quite frankly, I think I made the right decision – I did what was best for me. I refuse to feel guilty for a boundary I set for myself, which impacted my mental and emotional wellbeing more positively than it ever could have, than if I had continued to relentlessly bombard myself with COVID-19 news.
I’m aware that despite being overwhelmed by the onslaught of COVID news every day, not many people would want to take my stance, and I understand that completely. Perhaps limiting yourself to reading one COVID-19 news article a day, or setting one day to catch up on all the related news would be a good alternative.
If you ever feel guilty about making such boundaries for yourself, allow me to use this heavily cliched phrase: We’re living in unprecedented times. A pandemic might be the ‘new normal’, but nothing about this is normal. Do what you have to do to survive. It isn’t being selfish or irresponsible, it’s self-preservation.