Some fear is productive. It keeps us alive.
Some fear is destructive. It keeps us terrified, paralyzed, &, most of all, obedient.
Which is which? How can we tell the difference?
A tale of two threads about the #coronavirus.
This is the first one:
and this is the second:
You've probably already seen them both. Or something like them.
Because it's the nature of fear-mongering that it takes our kindness, our desire to help, & weaponizes it.
This solidarity—the urge to spread life-saving information, to help others—is our greatest strength.
And also our great Achilles heel.
Keep those in mind.
Here's that link again:
1. Don't go panic shopping—that will only increase exposure. (Seen the long lines of people clustered next to each other? That.)
3. Don't hoard ffp2 or ffp3 (aka N95 & N100) masks. Healthcare workers need those.
4. Don't go to the theater, gym, museums. Stick to essential outings.
Now for the second thread.
We're immediately told that it's from "a well respected friend and intensivist/A&E consultant who is currently in northern Italy."
Anonymous. Well respected.
Let's take a closer look, shall we?
1. "well respected"—appeal to authority (well respected doctor! it must be true!)
3 ."a quick personal update about what is happening in Italy"—appeal to the desperate desire for inside info that we have in a crisis. It's a form of FOMO: what if this information could SAVE MY LIFE????
That's the part of your brain this line is appealing to. This thread is not as crude as those. But that just makes it all the more effective.
If you read the whole thread, you'll notice that our anonymous, well-respected friend never gets to that part. He never offers any advice—quick, direct, or otherwise.
"We have seen the same pattern in different areas a week apart, and there is no reason that in a few weeks it won’t be the same everywhere"
Do you see the glaring red flag here?
This is where we cross the line. Let's take a closer look at this phrase:
1. Everywhere? Really? What about countries like Iceland, that are handling this pandemic well?
Like testing. And social distancing. And paid sick leave. And testing.
Note the lack of specifics in this thread.
Note all the misspellings.
Note the use of ALL CAPS: "PLEASE STOP, READ THIS AGAIN AND THINK."
What does that remind you of?
Note all the highly charged, emotional, panic-producing words:
"My friends call me in tears because they see people dying in front of them and they con only offer some oxygen"
Remember those chain letters? The scary Facebook posts?
The language in this thread, the use of threatening, terrifying scenarios—similar.
My theory? I think someone saw the Stringhini thread—the much earlier one, with a named doctor, & concrete tips—and decided to craft an amped-up version that would go viral.
Because fear matters. Fear does lasting harm. It spurs people to bad decisions that make the pandemic worse—like the panic shopping & mask-hoarding the Italian doctor warned us about.
We cannot survive like that. We need everyone.
We should be afraid. We should be angry. But we should also be actively seeking solutions.
Be wary of messaging that makes you afraid. That sounds threatening.
Instead, look for the helpers, like Mr. Rogers used to say.
Look for things you can do to protect others. To stay connected.
THANK YOU FOR READING!!!!
[all caps totally in sarcasm]