This past week the world was plunged headlong into an unprecedented outbreak of... stupidity. Panicked into near hysteria by the incessant yammering of 24-hour news services, crowds of terrified shoppers have stripped stores of all available face masks, sanitizers, and - toilet paper! It would be all too laughable except that these fear-possessed imbeciles have now thrown international travel into an uproar, tanked global energy prices, and instigated one of the most drastic drops in world stock markets on record! All because a (comparatively) few people came down with the flu.
Now don't get me wrong - my sincerest sympathies go out to those who may actually have lost a loved one. But seriously folks, more people die in car accidents each and every hour than will be affected by COVID 19 in its entire cycle! Why aren't we running from our cars? A thousand times more people will die every day from smoking-related illnesses. Yet tobacco sales remain steady. And toilet paper? Makes me wonder if we haven't all just been suckered by the greatest toilet paper marketing ploy of all time.
Just because a 24-hour news service needs to fill the hours with something - doesn't mean it has anything to say. Desperate to fill the timeslots, they drag in any (so-called) expert they can find, interview clueless bystanders, dreg up irrelevant data - anything to just keep talking talking talking. Here's a radical idea: if you are feeling panicked by what you are hearing on the news - TRY TURNING IT OFF!
Actually, that won't work either. Like fish in water, we are surrounded by a relentless stream of media every waking moment these days. We have constant access to vast amounts of information that we didn’t know we needed to know. Multiple news sources, endless entertainment possibilities, and limitless communications with countless people. Televisions stare us in the face, computers engage us while we work, Alexa reminds us that she is always listening, and our smart phones notify us continually of all kinds of gibberish. World news. Political news. Financial news. Science news. Entertainment news. Weather news. Fake news. Thousands of companies, promoters, friends, enemies, celebrities, athletes, artists, and online fraudsters are constantly 'waving' at us, vying for our attention. We are all being swept along by a vast Niagara of information that we seem powerless to resist. Those who try to raise a voice of reason are simply drowned out by the roar of the falls.
But why, in the name of God Almighty does anybody other than Almighty God need to know all this? We're all like suddenly-rich rock-stars who kill themselves trying to sample all the pleasures they could never afford before. Our brains are so jammed with spam that we can barely function. Never has so much, of so little value, been known by so many!
What we need are filters. Like a facemask filters the air that we breathe, we need brain-masks that filter the information we breathe. Information overload and ‘media-induced-panic-syndrome’ (MIPS), is really just a case of filter-failure.
Now it’s not that we don’t have built-in filters already. In fact, our brains have a marvelous ability to screen out unwanted or unimportant information. And maybe that’s the key here: we need to decide what’s important to us. It boils down to asking ourselves three questions:
- Is it credible? I suppose there has always been some kind of bias behind everything. But these days they don’t even try to hide it anymore! Everything seems to be blatantly ‘spun’ for someone’s benefit. We really need to look hard for the truth in almost everything we hear.
- Is it dangerous? Of course, we all want to avoid harm coming to ourselves and our loved ones. If there is real danger, then we need to take immediate action. But there are a lot of voices just ‘crying wolf’ over nothing these days.
- Is it useful? When you live your life in pursuit of a purpose, you can’t afford to pack around a pile of useless information. Life is too short. Jettison everything that slows you down and filter out the rest!