Panic Prophesy: COVID-19’s Psychological Effects

I’m not qualified to talk about diseases or make health recommendations. Instead, I’ll observe the effects of COVID-19 at the social level. COVID-19 causes panic prophesy, depraved journalism, and armchair expertise.

1) Panic Prophesy

Right now, there’s a feedback loop happening between the media and citizens. The media creates negative, sensationalized reports about the potential negative impacts of COVID-19. Fictional, speculative reporting triggers panic buying and other irrational behavior that causes real damage to supply chains, the environment, and psychology.

Suddenly, mere conjecture becomes a frightening reality. People feel like their panic is validated, and panic more, causing more damage that gives the media more to report on, which in turn causes more panic.

This is primarily a psychological phenomenon, but that doesn’t make it any less tangible or real. We must believe in a system for it to keep working. Doubt leads to more issues.

2) Depraved Journalism

Not all journalists are depraved, but today most of them choose to abandon their ethics in favor appalling reporting that generates clicks instead of facts. How did they do it?

If you follow Reddit, you can be ahead of the news by a few days, because journalists are now using Reddit as a trusted source. Reddit doesn’t take steps to verify content it receives, and it is also clear that journalists aren’t using their training and ethics to stop falsehoods from reaching the country.

The issue is that Reddit users on subreddits related to COVID-19 tend to be doomsday people, spreading the same vitriol and conspiracy theories over and over again until they become verified at the popular, community level and find their way into mainstream news sources.

Journalists need to uphold ethical standards because their reporting informs and directs the general public. Most will not travel to the affected areas and get the truth as it is on the ground, and rely on heavily colored testimony from Reddit users, who may be CCP operatives, anti-CCP operatives, conspiracy theorists, people who are there and honest, or people writing fiction. Most of this content simply isn’t possible to verify at face value.

Journalists simply aren’t doing the extra work to verify content before reporting it, and it causes panic prophesy.

3) Armchair Experts

I didn’t know that most of my friends on social media had medical training until COVID-19. Nor did I notice that most of them have access to the same journals and databases that universities and labs use, despite never going to college or graduating a few years ago. I also didn’t know that so many people understood diseases to the point where they feel like they can make recommendations.

Suddenly, everyone feels like they understand disease because they watched a few YouTube videos about viruses. People fight with each other about recommendations to stay home or go out, how serious the COVID-19 is, or whether China or the WHO lied about the numbers. It’s a waste of time.

Not only is it frivolous to debate without expertise, it is also frightening how little we truly know about the world around us.