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Even when real, fear doesn’t always match reality

Even when real, fear doesn’t always match reality

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For the past several weeks, my morning routine has gone pretty much exactly like this every day: Get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, walk out the front door, wait for something awful to happen.

And, by “awful,” I mean something along the lines of being abducted, robbed, bludgeoned or worse.

Just by way of clarification, I don’t live in a particularly dangerous area, or in an ostentatious home that might hint at vast sums of money that could be paid in ransom should someone decide to kidnap me. I don’t run afoul of kingpins or cartel leaders, carry any massive gambling debt or remember ever having acquired any sworn enemies. I am not an international spy, a government witness or a woman on the run after having absconded with her former husband’s life savings.

In short, I can think of absolutely no rational reason why lately I almost always expect someone to leap out of the bushes and club me over the head as soon as I step out my front door each morning.

Except for one.

For some unexplainable reason, my husband and I have recently become hooked on the true crime show “Dateline: Secrets Revealed,” watching episode after episode as a way to unwind after a long day.

If you’ve never seen the show, I guarantee you’ve seen something like it. The  formula — a grisly crime, a race to figure out who did it, and enough twists and false leads to keep the viewer hooked — is not exactly groundbreaking, but it is often just interesting enough to keep you hitting “Play next episode.”

What I hadn’t realized these past few weeks, however, as I played couch detective and marveled at the callous nature of some criminals and the tragic misfortune of their victims, was how it was beginning to color the way I saw the non-televised world I step out into each day.

Binge-watch enough crime-focused television, I realized, and it soon begins to feel as though it’s only a matter of time before you become a victim yourself.  It isn’t difficult, we’ve all learned, for perception of a threat to be skewed by the sheer amount of attention we — or others — give to it.

I couldn’t help but think of this idea the other day, as I considered the people I know who have been living in fear and almost total isolation since February, when public health officials in the United States first began sounding the alarm over COVID-19. A few have pre-existing conditions and are likely wise to take extreme precautions, but at least a handful seem to have allowed the constant blaring headlines and doomsday-style proclamations emanating from some news outlets to frighten them into believing coronavirus awaits them around every corner, poised to strike.

It began to occur to me that perhaps, in the case of COVID-19, consuming too much information (or, as often is the case, speculation) can have a negative impact on our health — not as dangerous as the virus itself, perhaps, but harmful nonetheless.

The coronavirus is a real threat, to be certain, but we as individuals still have the upper hand. If we take the proper precautions and use common sense, there is no reason for the vast majority of us to live in fear. Wear a mask, wash your hands, stay safe — but also sane. Consume media responsibly and remember that moderation is a great rule of thumb for everything, from COVID-19 coverage to crime shows.

As for me, I’ve switched to something a bit lighter for my end-of-the-day television viewing: cooking shows.

My waistline may not thank me in the long run, but I’m feeling a whole lot safer already.

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