The New Form Of Anxiety You Might Not Realise You Have

It’s a sign of the times
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My left foot is tapping nervously. My throat feels dry. And my stomach is tightly clenched.

As I sit here writing, I feel anxious.

Partly because of impending deadlines, partly because Trump and Putin just met behind closed doors and the world is, somewhat eerily, still standing.

But mainly because I haven’t watched The Handmaids Tale, and it seems I’m the only person in the world who isn’t banging on about Marthas and Jezebels.

On top of that, I have 34 tabs open on my laptop – a collection of clever long-form articles I’m never going to get around to reading ­– and I can’t so much as go to the bathroom without tuning into a podcast for a news hit.

According to a quick self-diagnosis, I’m suffering from cultural anxiety disorder (CAD), a term coined by Grazia UK to define our growing panic to absorb more and more. The wonders of 24-hour news and Netflix are many – but are they stirring up stress instead of satisfaction? In these hyper-connected times, our brains are brimming and buzzing and practically bursting.

CAD is a contemporary phenomenon yet to be formally acknowledged by the medical field, but its symptoms are easy to spot. Consider it a new-age FOMO; in short, sufferers would rather skimp on shut-eye than miss an episode of Sharp Objects (side note: it’s the next must-watch), let alone be excluded from the office debrief the next day.

A friend of mine recently admitted rather sheepishly that during a dinner party she pretended that she’d seen Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette because everyone else was talking about it, and hey, she’d been meaning to watch it.

This is where the disorder veers into dangerous territory: competitive culture consumption. See that snap of the sunny yellow beach towel on Instagram, with the hat, sunscreen and book arranged just so? Notice the way said reading material is always fresh off the Man Booker list? Meanwhile, an Insta-story of one’s low-brow penchant for, say, The Bachelor, undoubtedly comes accompanied by a witty caption. Oh the irony.

When consumption becomes a performance, some sort of measure of our woke-ness, it starts to lose its joy. Which is generally the very reason we’re watching/reading/listening in the first place.

With that in mind, I plan to transfer Marie Kondo’s famed philosophy from cleaning to culture, only consuming the shows and stories that spark my inner joy.

By all accounts, The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the most brilliant and powerful pieces of television ever made. But it looks like I’ll be sticking to British Love Island.

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