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 COVID-19 has infected and wiped out 99.9 percent of the world’s population.
At the same time, the aliens have decided to pay our planet a visit.
At arrival, they find the streets strangely quiet— shops, restaurants, cafes, stores all are shut down. The houses are empty. As the aliens make their way from one house to the next, they discover piles of items labeled toilet paper.
They are puzzled.
They figure Google would have an answer and search online for the definition of ‘toilet paper’— “paper in sheets or on a roll for wiping oneself clean after urination or defecation.”
The aliens are puzzled once again.
When stories of COVID-19 first began making headlines, you know about a lifetime ago now, there were viral news coverage of people walking out of major supermarkets with shopping carts full of paper in sheets or on a roll for wiping oneself clean after urination or defecation.
Never mind the irrelevancy of toilet papers during a pandemic, an economic breakdown and/or potential apocalypse. If other people are doing it, and it’s on the news, well, you better run to Walmart, fight people for the last pack on the shelf, scream at the store clerk for the empty shelfs, and by all means get you some toilet paper, or be the last one standing without toilet papers while the world burns to the ground.
I mean, what other options do we have? The world is ending and we need toilet paper.
I don’t blame people.
I blame the atrocity that is news media.
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.
The main objective of the media isn’t to inform and educate citizens but rather it is to increase viewership to attract advertisement dollars. In other words, the media is in the business of the attention economy.
Per business-as-usual, the media took full advantage of COVID-19 to spread fear and create panic. Why? Fear sells, and if running out of toilet paper as the world ends is our biggest fear, well, so be it.
Money talks, and the news speaks fluent.
Since it’s easier to change ourselves than to change the world, it is important to be critical of what information we choose to consume, and find alternative sources to stay informed while avoiding media hysteria.
As someone who quit the news since 2016, here’s what has worked for me: 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.
As for COVID-19, 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 discussed COVID-19 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 calm and follow safety recommendations.
It was that simple.
I haven’t read much news since the pandemic began, and all the important information reaches me one way or another anyway. I don’t need to bombard myself with information to be informed, and definitely not on a daily basis.
Simple is sufficient.
Wishing you good health, safety, and more outdoor time during these times, and always.
Until next time. . .
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