How much information do I need on a daily basis about this global pandemic? At the start of it all, I was following stats from John Hopkins several times a day. Checking news websites. Debating pros and cons of the different response options from different countries. Railing against the apparent sheer stupidity and ignorance of certain politicians and swathes of the public. Not everyone has the same level of education but distrust of experts, buying into conspiracy theories, and wilfully harmful spinning of facts to fit political and other world-views and narratives in the name of “freedom of expression” seems, to me, just plain wrong.
I'm aware that I'm lucky. Privileged even. I'm an averagely healthy, very well educated, white middle-aged man in a country with a public health system. Political polarisation and spin, while it exits in the UK, is less extreme than (for example) the US. My wife and I still have our jobs. While we're worried about our parents, who are in their seventies, they are largely staying safe. We have green space across the road from us, shops nearby, and friends in regular contact.
I'm aware of some of my own biases – but not arrogant enough to think that I know them all or can impartially correct for them in every conversation I have. I have a PhD and have published. This gives me an appreciation of the limits of expertise, the importance of giving context and of fact-checking. The danger of only listening to views that are just echoing my own. It also gives me an annoying habit of counter-arguing or putting up the occasional straw man to stimulate debate.
I also believe that the vast majority of public figures and individuals are doing their level best to make sense of a difficult situation. The calls that these senior decisions makers have to make under immense and unrelenting pressure are not ones that I would like to face. Only time will tell if they were the right ones. It is right that we hold them to account but we should not lose our ability to have empathy in the process.
Each day now I scan the headlines for major developments but don't probe so deeply or check the latest stats. I don't watch daily briefings and I now mute the news on the radio. There is too much. Following so closely isn't good for my mental health. In the last week or so, lockdown has been getting to me. I'm exhibiting a curious mix of restlessness and apathy but (hopefully!) aware enough to start taking steps before it gets too bad.
I still engage in conversation and debate as friends and family try to process their own way through all this, although my comments are not as well-informed or up-to-date as they once were. I try to be better about having patience with those who approach it all from a different perspective. I make sure I'm following lockdown guidelines in Wales (which are different from those in England).
But my world is narrowing right now and it's not just due to lockdown. I have a baby due in a month or so and need my energy for that wonder of life instead.
Entry 5 of my participation in the “100 Days to Offload” challenge – find out more and join in!