I need to just take a breather from Twitter. Maybe we all do.
But I swear if I see one more tweet boo-hooing about how the canned and frozen aisles are empty while fresh produce remains, or berating the “processed crap” people are putting in their carts and in their bodies, I will scream.
There won’t be anyone to hear me, because you know. Social distancing and working from home. But still. I’ll do it.
It’s not a new phenomenon to claim that essential oils, organic food, or routine detoxes are the key to longevity, vitality, and joy in your life (spoiler: they’re not). But I can’t be alone in noticing how there’s a surge of interest now that COVID-19 is at the forefront of our American psyche.
I assume it’s partially due to the fact we’re spending more time at home on our devices. After all, with the NCAA and professional sports organizations canceling tournaments, games, and even entire seasons, it leaves ample opportunity to divert attention to other topics. Entire conferences and symposiums have been postponed indefinitely; non-essential travel has trickled down to nothing. Information is just a few clicks away at any given time so inevitably these self-proclaimed experts and gurus will land among a new audience. Everyone wants to be an expert and everyone wants to find an expert.
Pssst…(pretend I’m waving you over, but please stay one meter away).
I don’t know if anyone’s told you this, but not everyone on the Internet is an expert.
It’s frustrating to see misinformation spreading to those most susceptible to it. Desperation makes us cling to the hope of safety. And that’s really what this is about. Whether it’s hoarding toilet paper and bottled water or taking shots of green juice like it’s going out of style, this is our society’s way of bargaining for the best odds. It offers a sense of control amidst uncontrollable forces and some reassurance that you’re doing absolutely everything in your power to protect yourself.
I often think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Food, water, shelter. We must first feel safe before we can even begin to entertain the idea of future planning, critical thinking, or self-actualization.
When you’re feeling vulnerable, these outlandish claims become more alluring. In a less frenetic headspace, we could likely apply more critical thinking capacity and work out the conclusion that no, eliminating sugar isn’t the answer for stopping the spread of COVID-19. We’d also likely follow the breadcrumbs to see how selfish it is to capitalize on these very real fears and market snake oil solutions for your own gain. The savior complex isn’t helping.
It only incites fear when vigilance and common sense would suffice.
It’s also increasingly popular to ride the coattails of COVID-19 and siphon attention towards other social causes and injustices. Rachael Hope wrote a piece about this. It did a great job illustrating why this does such a disservice to all causes, regardless of how well-intentioned the statements may be.
Let’s All Stop Comparing This Viral Epidemic To Social Injustices
The current emphasis on Coronavirus doesn’t negate the importance of other social issues
Yes, there are horrific things happening every day. Around the world and in our own backyards. But creating a hierarchy of woes is like comparing apples to oranges. Each injustice is fraught with nuance and complexity so it’s not a fair fight to pit them against each other. This isn’t a zero-sum game, either.
Just as it’s not helpful to one-up the person who just described their terrible, no good, very bad day because you perceive your terrible, no good, very bad day as worse, so too is this game.
Illness is a little different than life-style diseases. We can hedge our bets against acute illnesses and disease as best we can, but disease doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, privileged or oppressed. However, the rich and privileged have a leg-up on everyone else and they seem to love reminding everyone about that.
As I said in a previous piece, yes, I’m aware, not all rich and privileged and thanks for stopping by if that’s all you’re here to argue about.
It made me think of this clip from a colleague in Jacksonville, FL. Her local news ran a segment featuring a sound bite from a medical professional. He states:
“We certainly don’t want people to adjust their daily routine to stop exercising because we have a larger epidemic in this country called obesity.”
You can practically hear the condescension in his tone. It’s clear he values anyone doing the “right” things for their health is higher regard than anyone who isn’t concerned with that right now. Healthism at it’s finest. Perpetuated by a white man with the benefits of being relatively young, seemingly able-bodied, highly educated, and we can assume likely financially stable.
Is exercise really going to keep the virus at bay? Well, at this time, infectious disease experts caution that gyms may be equally risky for transmitting COVID-19. Not any more, not any less. But can we back up just a little bit and recognize that your 30-minute slog on the treadmill and jaunt through the free weights can probably wait?
Yes, exercise can be a great thing. It plays a role in maintaining a healthy immune system among other benefits. But our health-obsessed culture has a seriously disordered relationship with exercise and other diet trends and yes, we might have to adjust our daily routines to do our part to flatten the curve.
Your fitness will rebound. The immunosuppressed, elderly neighbor who contracts it might not.
In this singular example, it also assumes anyone listening has the ability, desire, and means to make exercise a part of their routine. This virus is hitting some people harder than others and I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I’ll be minding my finances more closely than usual and trying to curb expenses where I can. While there are plenty of free or low-cost options to exercise, there’s a time and a place for putting yourself through unnecessary strain and stress to do something “for your health” if it comes with the cost of your mental and emotional well-being.
As Kathryn Dillon wrote in GEN, this is an opportunity to cast light on the long-time inequalities some people contend with every day. It’s not news to them that access to healthcare, at-your-fingertips information, and supplies aren’t always available or accessible. If you just recently found yourself noticing there are things you take for granted, that’s your privilege showing.
Becoming aware of your privileges and how you benefit from them might make you feel some kind of way. Angry, confused, defiant — you might feel upset that you weren’t aware of them before, and even feel tempted to defend them or explain how, despite your privilege, you’re woke enough to not be “like that.” But notice how this centers your experience. If it triggers uncomfortable feelings for you, let that pinpoint where your personal work needs to start.
You can be upset about the global situation. You can also be sad about the impact it has on your personal life. We’re all missing big events, things we were looking forward to. It sucks knowing some of those will never be rescheduled and irreplaceable opportunities are lost. As a small business owner, it remains to be seen how this will trickle down in the coming months and years and that’s anxiety-inducing as hell.
But please. For the love of all things good in this world. Don’t take to the digital pulpit to preach about how green juices and cleanses and avoiding sugar is the key to staying healthy in this time of unknowns. Just as we can do our part to flatten the curve, we can also do our part to stop spreading unhelpful, unscientific, and potentially harmful advice. There are so many other ways to help, many of which we already know about and choose not to do, so I’ll just leave it at this.
Wash your hands, help who you can, and don’t be a self-righteous asshole.