Have you got cul­tural anx­i­ety dis­or­der?

The show everyone’s talk­ing about, a must-hear pod­cast, that woke mu­sic video – when did down­time be­come such hard work, won­ders Alix O’neill

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on ma­ter­nity leave ear­lier this year, I read Lul­laby, the story of a killer nanny. An odd choice for a woman in the throes of new moth­er­hood, you might think. Suf­fice to say, I had night­mares for a week. But Leïla Sli­mani’s chill­ing tale was the book everyone was talk­ing about. And while I was happy to take a hia­tus from the news, I wanted to keep my fin­ger on the zeit­geist, re­gard­less of my men­tal health.

It’s not just the lat­est reads I feel com­pelled to stay on top of. I’ve sub­scribed to 17 pod­casts, three of which I’ve ac­tu­ally man­aged to lis­ten to. There’s a ton of book­marked ar­ti­cles on my web browser and an ever-grow­ing pile of fly­ers in my flat ad­ver­tis­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion/show/gig

I ab­so­lutely can­not miss ( but prob­a­bly will be­cause I have a job and a six-month-old).

It’s all be­cause I have a se­ri­ous case of cul­tural anx­i­ety dis­or­der (CAD). The symp­toms are easy to spot. Is your bed­side ta­ble crammed with books you’ve yet to read? Do you panic when col­leagues start greet­ing each other with, ‘Blessed be the fruit,’ be­cause you still haven’t watched The Hand­maid’s Tale? Is your in­box over­flow­ing with news­let­ters you don’t have time to get through? If you an­swered yes to any of the above, you could be a suf­ferer.

Fel­low CAD suf­fer­ers in­clude my friend Jess, who, at a din­ner a few weeks ago, pre­tended to have seen A Rachel Di­vide when con­ver­sa­tion turned to race and iden­tity. ‘I’d heard of Rachel Dolezal [the con­tro­ver­sial white woman who iden­ti­fies as black], but didn’t re­alise Net­flix had re­leased a doc­u­men­tary about her life. I didn’t want to ap­pear ig­no­rant, so just kept nod­ding and go­ing “hmmm” like I had a clue what was go­ing on. The amount of things I have to watch is stress­ing me out.’

Mar­ket­ing con­sul­tant Emma, 32, feels the same. She’s still speed-read­ing her way through the 2017 Man Booker short­list be­fore this year’s can­di­dates are re­vealed. ‘I’d love to re­visit some of my favourite books, but ev­ery week more “must reads” come out.’

That’s the thing about cul­ture these days – there’s sim­ply too much of it to ab­sorb. Yet we’re all ex­pected to be poly­maths now. Cul­ture has be­come the new sta­tus sym­bol. In­stead of In­sta­gram­ming our brunch, we’re show­ing off our book tow­ers – al­ways the hottest and most woke reads. I’ve done it my­self, only to get stuck into a Jilly Cooper after­wards as a cul­tural cleanse.

But surely this com­pet­i­tive con­sump­tion of cul­ture is less­en­ing our en­joy­ment of it? Leisure seems to have be­come as pres­surised as work. What­ever hap­pened to the art of be­ing idle? To kick-start my re­cov­ery, I’ll share my dirty lit­tle se­cret. My name is Alix. I have never seen Mad Men or read any­thing by Zadie Smith and, re­cently, I re­watched ev­ery sin­gle episode of Daw­son’s Creek. #noshame

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