What’s hoarding toilet papers got to do a fatal flu virus outbreak? Good ol’ media.
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The year is 2020. A flu virus, the deadliest in history, by the name of coronavirus (COVID-19) has infected and wiped out 99.9 percent of the world population.
At the same time, aliens decide to pay our planet a visit. At arrival, they find the streets strangely quiet, shops, restaurants, cafes, and stores shut down. As they make their way from one house to the next, the aliens discover bodies after bodies. What’s more strange is the piles of items, 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.
Soon after, all major stores were out of toilet papers in record time.
People watched on the news people walking out of Walmart and Costco with piles and piles of toilet paper, and figured they needed to do the same. Never mind the irrelevancy of toilet papers during a pandemic, economic breakdown and/or the apocalypse.
Since when did toilet papers make the list of doomsday preparation checklist? Never.
Rather, it was 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 information we consume from media, especially the news and social media platforms.
Per business-as-usual, the media has taken advantage of COVID-19 to spread fear and create panic. There are various reasons for why the media operates this way.
One of the main objectives 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.
In contrast, there are many alternative resources providing informative and unbiased (mostly) scientific information on the outbreak, including the various implications of COVID-19, and how to best protect ourselves from the virus.
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 was important to find an alternative to stay informed without becoming vulnerable to media hysteria.
Choose a news source carefully, and keep it simple.
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.
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, and don’t 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. I know just enough to stay informed and safe while staying sane.
Wishing you all good health and safety during these challenging times, and always.
Until next time… 🙂