Two Observations in the Face of COVID-19

Disclaimer: This post contains no medical knowledge or advice, only two observations from a random guy.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and reading about the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). In fact, I’ve spent so much time sharing tweets and information that my family is sure I’m an alarmist. What I call getting informed, others call being paranoid.

If you’re looking for an opinion on what is to come or tips to prepare – I am not your guy and this is not your post. I urge you to wash your hands, read what the CDC produces, and try to stay calm and informed.

Observation 1: Life is on cruise control.

It has been some time since I learned about involuntary actions. You know, like breathing? The things we do that don’t require any conscious thought.

Our days are full of them!

We do so much shit without an ounce of conscious energy.

How many times have you touched your face since you started reading this? It’s that very thing that allowed me to realize how often I’m engaged in “unconscious” activity.

A Wired article from earlier today cites a small study which indicates medical students touched their face an average of 23 times per hour. That song about not being able to feel your face is dumb, because we are always feeling our face.

Not touching your face during this time (or ever) is a strong preventative measure you can take, aiding your ability to stave off infection of COVID-19 or beyond. But it’s hard to not touch your face, because we do it constantly without even realizing it.

Until we realize it.

Since the dawn of COVID-19, I’ve been able to curb some of my bad facial hygiene habits. I haven’t taken any bites out of my nails in weeks. I rub my eyes less. I itch my face with the temples of my glasses. I’m becoming a role model in the “don’t touch your face” world.

But like that allusion shattering scene from How I Met Your Mother, I’m now noticing every person around me constantly touching their face.

Eyebrow rub. Finger in teeth. Itching the nose.

If you’re on the highway cruising, let this be your brake.

Observation 2: People believe things quickly, but change their minds slowly.

I have heard some wild stuff at work and in public conversation about Coronavirus Disease 2019. I’m sure you’ve seen it too. From bat soup to bioweapon laboratory leaks, it’s likely you’ve encountered some untraditional story with ties to COVID-19.

I have no interest in trying to dispute any claims or label things as fake news here, but rather to detail my experience of information being unable to change people’s minds.

In his post, “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds,” James Clear notes that “understanding the truth of a situation is important, but so is remaining part of a tribe. While these two desires often work well together, they occasionally come into conflict.”

There is a lot of discussion to be had about why someone arrives at a certain belief, but this sense of belonging to a tribe reflects a bit about why someone would be so adamant about keeping a certain belief in the face of more information. It’s scary to leave the echo chamber of the tribe that confirms your thoughts and feelings. And scarier still to even attempt shifting your beliefs through the vehicle of debate.

Clear writes “any idea that is sufficiently threatening to your worldview will feel threatening. And the best place to ponder a threatening idea is in a non-threatening environment.”

Clear’s example of a non-threatening environment? Books.

But what do we do if there are no books on the subject?

Well – it seems likely we’ll continue posturing.

Kevin Simler’s post,Crony Beliefs, provides a few examples of the typical agendas we hold for our beliefs. Some of us will show off, or push our beliefs as a signal of intelligence. Others will stick out, holding unorthodox views to demonstrate independence of thought.

Stubborn as hell, we will all forge on, perhaps dangerously unwilling to budge from our current beliefs on COVID-19.

I’m unable to persuade those who feel this is panic. They can’t push me to glorified flu status. We hate the middle.