Sunday, March 15, 2020

Truth and Lies in the Time of the Pandemic

There is a lot of misinformation floating around about #coronavirus. While new information is coming every day, and there's plenty we don't know, we do know a lot.

The other day, a man told me that he was sure he'd heard on CNN that 80% of people already had the virus, so obviously it wasn't big a deal.

I told him he was wrong, politely, then again. Then I wished him a good day and left.

I bothered to talk with him because someone like this will make bad decisions--about his own hygiene, about social distancing, about his own illness should he get sick--and those decisions put himself and others at greater risk.

He will pass on incorrect information, and--like the virus itself--that information spreads, creating patterns of action or inaction that affect us all.

I am learning to tell people that they are wrong gently. Because either they're tending toward being open to what I say, or they're tending away from it.

If the former, my being emotionally loud creates more emotional turmoil in the interaction, which is likely to get them defensive and less able to hear me.

Sure, it might make me feel better for a moment and help me let off steam from my own stress around all this, but does it accomplish any goal of communicating new ideas?

Not so much.

Or, in other words, if someone is hard of listening, speaking louder doesn't work better.

So, how to asses the veracity of information? Ask yourself some questions.

Who is telling you this? Can you find another, corroborating source? Who else is saying something similar? Are any of the sources reputable?

Think critically before you post, or email out to a list. When you have a readership, you have a greater responsibility to spread good information. Don't trust something just because someone says they're an expert, a doctor, a researcher.

Every person is part of this disease transmission. We are all truly connected, and this pandemic is showing us this, up-close and personal. What we believe affects how we act, and that has everything to do with infection vectors.

Here are some lies, or myths, making the rounds. Give them a quick look.

And if you have more such lists, let me know.

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