Every morning I wake up, go for a walk and come home, long before I have encountered any other humans. I don’t want to see another soul, being distrustful not only of them but of myself. Are they infecting me? Or am I infecting them?
Once I’m back at home, I make some tea and then check the news. I visit Twitter. It is the same sense of panic. It may be news from yesterday or day the before, or maybe it’s from today. I can’t tell. It all seems the same. And before it is even 8 a.m., anxiety envelopes my entire being. When will this end? Three weeks, six weeks, or six months? It already seems so endless. I am not sure how to deal with not knowing.
The modern human (or rather, the post-social human) knows it all. Whether it is Facebook or Twitter, we all are swimming in a stream of information — news, rumors, data, analysis, whatever — and we are used to knowing. Now, suddenly, we don’t know.
Our media organizations are trying to one-up each other, creating more panic and confusion. The president throws out useless words like so many pus-filled bandages. His speech only infects the mind and body of our nation. Others share some half-truths about medications that may or may not work. There is a cacophony of words from those who are neither experts nor have the sense of restraint, which we desperately need.
Yet, outside the window of my 600-square foot cage of modern consumerism, the world looks the same. The sun is sharing its light and warmth, gently enveloping San Francisco. It looks so normal. And still, I feel like the man in the famous Edvard Munch painting, “The Scream.” When he described the reason he painted the Scream, Much might as well have been describing how I feel now:
I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature. 1
Maybe the ideal thing to do is to quit the media — social and otherwise — or, at least, refrain from excessive use. After all, as research has shown 2, “more time spent using social media” is “associated with greater symptoms of dispositional anxiety.” I am not alone. Whenever I check in with my friends, they are feeling the same anxiety and unease. I was reading this article in Psychology Today 3, and there some practical suggestions on how to be dealing with our collective unease.
- Reach out to people you can trust
- Listen to them
- Be Open
You’ll note that checking Twitter is not on the list.
March 21, 2020, San Francisco
- The unending anxiety of Pandemic content by Amanda Hess
- How to handle the Coronavirus anxiety by American Heart Association