To objectify a thing is to deprive it of its moral standing, and of whatever rights might come from that.
—LM Sacasas, on The Ezra Klein Show
The anecdotal vantage of a phenomenon like covid is entirely overwhelming and disorienting. According to data in late July, 125,000 vaccinated Americans had tested positive for breakthrough cases of the virus. That’s a lot of people — until you look at the denominator (164.2 million vaccinated). But since 125,000 people is still, by any account a lot of humans, you’re going to see a lot of anecdotes from those humans. Any one of those anecdotes might be disconcerting to read but, taken together, it’s downright scary. A similar dynamic applies to even straight news articles about the pandemic when shared on social media. News headlines often get a lot of shit because they’re more salacious than the article itself. Social media posts of news stories usually go a step further. Eventually, the game of telephone collapses into itself and influences the way the media coverage works. It looks like this:
Sober and detailed article —> Slightly Salacious headline —> Even more salacious tweet/post based off the slightly salacious headline —> Salacious tweets are collected and aggregated into fully salacious news story.
I’m not breaking much new ground with these observations, but it’s been clarifying to remind myself of them. Personally, I think I need to stop all fast-twitch news consumption around covid news.
I took this approach late last year with COVID news, and I did the same with new about recounts and other election-related controversies a few weeks after the November election. I highly recommend it.
Stop scrolling Twitter and Facebook for the latest Delta variant news. They are not good sources of useful information, and they will only make you feel worse.