What’s hoarding toilet papers got to do a fatal flu virus outbreak? Good ol’ media.
The year is 2020.
A flu virus, the deadliest in history, by the name of coronavirus has infected and wiped out 99.9 percent of the world’s population.
At the same time, aliens have decided to pay our planet a visit.
At arrival, they find the streets strangely quiet— shops, restaurants, cafes, and stores are shut down. As the aliens make their way from one house to the next, they discover dead bodies after dead bodies.
What’s more strange is the piles of item, labeled toilet paper, they discover in every house.
The aliens are puzzled, and search online the definition of ‘toilet paper’ to figure out what it is— “paper in sheets or on a roll for wiping oneself clean after urination or defecation.”
They are puzzled, once again.
When stories of COVID-19 first began making headlines, there were viral news coverage of people buying large quantities of toilet paper to prepare for a pandemic.
Suddenly, most major stores were out of toilet papers.
Here’s what happened.
People watched other people walking out of Walmart and Costco with piles of toilet paper on the news, and figured they need to do the same. Never mind the irrelevancy of toilet papers during a pandemic, an economic breakdown and/or potential apocalypse.
Since when did toilet papers make the list of doomsday preparation checklist? Never.
Rather, this is an illustration of the impact of media on our psyche.
Without downplaying the social, political, and economical ramifications of COVID-19, it is important to be critical of the way information is disseminated, especially on the news and social media platforms, and what information we choose to consume.
Per business-as-usual, the media took full advantage of COVID-19 to spread fear and create panic.
There are various reasons for why the media operates this way.
The main objective of the media isn’t to inform and educate citizens but rather to increase viewership to attract advertisement dollars. In other words, the media is in the business of the attention economy.
Yet, there are still many alternative resources providing informative and (mostly) unbiased information on any given topic, including COVID-19.
For instance, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has been updating their website on a wide-rang of information on COVID-19 since the outbreak started, including scientific articles, preventative methods and dealing with an infection to list a few.
However, sensible, logical, and factual information can be tedious and boring for the average person.
As an average person myself, who find complex scientific papers tedious to read through or understand, it is important to find alternative sources to stay informed while avoiding becoming vulnerable to media hysteria.
Choose a news source carefully, and keep it simple.
Podcasts have been a great way for me to stay informed on current events, and be presented with information in a concise, interesting, and mostly neutral manner.
After many weeks feeling wary of information online, and avoiding the news altogether, I knew staying uninformed about the pandemic just to protect my sanity wasn’t the answer. Right on time, one of my all time favourite podcasts, Stuff You Should Know, released an episode covering the pandemic: How COVID-19 Works.
The episode covered topics such as, the origins of COVID-19, how it’s spread, how different demographics are impacted by it, and what we can do to protect ourselves from the virus.
The hosts, Josh and Chuck, discussed the pandemic in a way that was concise, interesting, and informative. Most importantly, listening to their conversation didn’t feel like I was being manipulated to feel or react one way or another about the pandemic.
Instead, the episode helped me make an informed decision and come to my own conclusion on how to deal with the pandemic; stay home, follow safety recommendations, without making me panic.
This accidental experiment with digital wellness and media consumption taught me something very important: I don’t need to bombard myself with information to be informed, and definitely not on a daily basis.
In addition to the podcast episode mentioned, below are a few other sources from around the web I’ve found to be educational and sensible:
- From AsapSCIENCE: The Coronavirus Vaccine Explained and What Actually Happens If You Get Coronavirus?
- From Worldometer, real-time statistics for the spread and fatality rate of COVID-19 worldwide.
- From Austin Kleon’s weekly newsletter: Tips From Someone With Nearly 50 Years Of Social Distancing Experience
- From LessWrong: Coronavirus Justified Practical Advice Summary
Simple is sufficient.
Wishing you all good health and safety during these challenging times, and always.
Until next time. . .
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