For Lent this year, I gave up the usual things– chocolate, cake, cookies, ice cream, candy, and just about anything that could be termed “sweets” or eaten as dessert. I also gave up something a bit unusual: When I told people this, they usually thought I was joking, especially when I followed up with the claim that it was damaging to my soul. Though I treated it lightly, there was some truth to it. Somewhere along the line, I had become addicted to the site. I would check it multiple times a day, known inane things about “celebrities” (most of whom I had no idea why they were even being followed by paparazzi, as they weren’t actors, musicians, or actually talented in any way), and obsess about whatever scandals happened in the previous hour.

So I gave it up. Cold turkey. I stopped visiting the website. I couldn’t tell you how many times I caught myself starting to type “” into my URL bar, without even thinking about it. It was sheer habit. Eventually, this instinct disappeared, and I checked about once a week to make sure I hadn’t missed any major celebrity gossip. About a week ago, I went back to the site for the first time since February. I immediately realized how much I didn’t miss the antics of Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt (who may be the second most aptly-named person in the media today, after Bernie Madoff). Honestly, all “Speidi” did when I read TMZ obsessively was make me angry. And it wasn’t just them, but all of the other idiotic publicity whores TMZ cameramen follows around. When I stopped reading the website, all that aimless anger at G-list celebrities disappeared. It was refreshing. And it wasn’t only the celebrities themselves, but how TMZ covered them. There were two posts that really reminded me why I quit in the first place. First was a live streaming of Heidi and Spencer’s “wedding.” In quotes, because apparently they got hitched in Mexico a couple of months ago, but it was actually a publicity stunt, and this set of nuptials was being filmed for their “reality” show (also in quotes), The Hills. Live streamed coverage of a publicity stunt? Is it really necessary? Who is glued to their screen to hopefully, maybe, catch a glimpse of them come out of some church in LA and do cutesy poses for the camera? Even in my worst days of my addiction, I never watched the live streams they did occasionally.

The second post that actually infuriated me was about a more legitimate celebrity, Tom Cruise. They had a photo of him chasing after his daughter, Suri (who looked abso-freaking-lutely adorable), with his older son following. TMZ, with their brilliant writing and reporting skills, referred to Katie Holmes as Suri’s “birth mother,” and Connor, one of the children Tom adopted with Nicole Kidman, as his “former son.” Excuse me, but since when does “ex-wife” translate to “ex-son”? Sorry guys, you can’t exactly un-do children like you can un-do a marriage. And why the “birth mother” designation? Last I checked, Katie Holmes was Suri’s mother– in birth, and also in raising the child. All I could think was, “Whoever wrote this is absolutely ridiculous.”

Just recounting this post is making me angry again. I don’t think TMZ was always like this; at least, I don’t remember it being quite so blatantly biased and judgmental. People who are able to take the site with a grain of salt and can look past the ridiculousness are probably wondering why I get so worked up about it when it doesn’t affect me in the slightest. And that’s why I’ve decided to quit. I’ve broken the love-hate relationship I’ve had for TMZ for so long. Maybe one day I’ll break my celebrity gossip addiction entirely.

I doubt it, though.

-Jane Granville

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