At the time of writing, it has been approximately 17 months since the first COVID cases were reported in the West. Way back then, we were told that coronavirus was manageable and that simply flattening the curve would allow us to return to normal life in short order. We now know that’s not the case. As such, it’s really no surprise that so many people still live in fear of COVID nearly a year-and-a-half later.
Here is a question we ought to be asking ourselves in relation to our fear and anxiety: are we our own worst enemies? If we are, getting over the fear and anxiety requires tough choices. It requires that we do something about our thoughts and emotions. On the other hand, perhaps the world’s collective fear is good, and nothing needs to be done.
An Unhealthy News Obsession
This post was written from the perspective of humanity being its own worst enemy. The supposition is based on our unhealthy obsession with news. Around the world, the 24-hour news cycle exists because consumers want it. If viewers weren’t watching the news on TV, advertisers would not pay for ads. News organisations would have to stop broadcasting.
Note that our unhealthy news obsession isn’t limited to TV. Most of us routinely consume the news through online news sites, RSS feeds, and even our social media channels. We can barely get by for an hour or so without checking the headlines. That’s not good.
COVID Makes for Good Headlines
What does our unhealthy obsession with news have to do with COVID? Everything. The fact is that COVID makes for good headlines. Constantly updating case and fatality numbers gives news organisations a constant stream of fodder for new stories. Publishing a hot map with real-time information is a gold mine for online traffic. It is click bait on steroids.
The mainstream media makes money by attracting consumers. Therefore, they go out of their way to drum up interest. And by the way, none of this is revolutionary. It has always been this way. The media distorts and sensationalises things because it works. What media outlets do today is no different from what street corner newspaper sellers did a hundred years ago.
Unnecessary Anxiety and Fear
The thing about obsessing over the news is that it leads to unnecessary anxiety and fear. If you are looking at COVID stats every hour on the hour, you are going to obsess over the numbers. That will only lead to increased fear that you will eventually become yet another statistic.
Note that anxiety and fear are not harmless. While they are positive and necessary emotions, they can be taken to unhealthy extremes. Long-term anxiety and fear can lead to mental disorders. They can also contribute to a wide range of diseases including heart disease and hypertension.
London psychoanalyst María R. de Almeida says that excessive fear and anxiety are dangerous to human health as any diagnosed mental health disorder. Constantly feeling anxious is not healthy. Furthermore, it is avoidable.
Choosing Our Levels of Anxiety
If we can blame the media for the unnecessarily hyping of the coronavirus crisis, we have to blame ourselves for consuming what they produce. We are essentially choosing our levels of anxiety based on our media consumption. Constantly obsessing over coronavirus news only fuels anxiety and fear.
News and information are necessary. They keep us informed so that we can make wise decisions. But obsessing over the news is an entirely different matter. Perhaps our collective news obsession has made us our own worst enemies in relation to COVID.