Why I Quit Trying to Be a 'COVID-19 Expert'

This past year has been an absolute whirlwind. First, there were faint whispers of a mysterious ‘SARS-CoV-2’ detected in individuals throughout Wuhan, China. Next thing you know, the whole world is on lockdown. As the news became more relevant to the Western world, I frantically jumped on every bit of information. I’d spend hours scrolling through journals, media outlets, and social media posts (I must say, there was a stark difference among the three).

Like many others, I wanted answers. No one likes big question marks, especially if it pertains to the health and safety of humankind. Consequently, the more I dug, the more confused and anxious I got. One paper had a completely contradictory plot to another news outlet. One health professional guaranteed a vaccine in three months, while another said it would be two to three years. It was (and still is) a mess. Oh, and don’t get me started on politics.

It’s not all bad, however. I’ve discovered a lot about myself and our interconnected world through this pandemic. My main takeaway is that it’s ok to not know all of the answers. In fact, I’d recommend not trying to become an expert (unless you are qualified, that is). Instead, take a step back to see the forest for the trees.

Here are three reasons why you should put your phone down, take a breath, and stop absorbing every morsel of COVID-related information in the black hole that is the internet.

The Case Against Absorbing COVID-19 Content

1)We Already Have Enough Information.

Now we are nowhere near answering all of the question marks around the coronavirus, but we know some very crucial basics. Social distancing helps. Wearing a mask helps. Frequent hand washing helps (although, perhaps less than we originally thought). Out of country traveling…not so much.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” — William James

Are these an oversimplification to the actual science behind primary prevention? Yes. Will we find better, more accurate measures and strategies in the future? I’d imagine so. The details are beside the point here, however. Leave that to the real experts. You see, it doesn’t matter if we’re unsure of the exact physiology behind COVID’s impact on our blood vessels, or how many millimeters a respiratory particle will travel.

We have the fundamental tools to make a difference right now. Don’t overthink it.

2) There are too many biased opinions out there.

In our modern-day era, capitalism has found a way to seep into every area, and COVID-19 is no exception. Whether it’s clickbait news articles or questionable ‘successful trials’ by Big Pharma companies, there are certified sharks out there.

I wish I had all the answers to separating the true professional from the posers, but alas, I do not. I do have one piece of advice to offer, however. If you do decide to browse coronavirus content, do so with responsible skepticism. If you find something that sounds convincing, pause for a moment and think to yourself, “Is there a potential for biases here? Can other sources back it up? Where are the credentials? Does this sound too good to be true?”.

Furthermore, please don’t spread your discoveries as ‘end-all-be-all’ information. It’s so easy to locate an article that makes us sound smart, and then post it online to convince our friends that it’s the truth. Again, feel free to engage in well-balanced discussions around COVID-19, but approach each one with responsible skepticism.

The reality is, there are good people out there who are doing great scientific research. We just have to dig deep to find them. In my humble opinion, this is not worth your time or energy. In the transition to my last point, it’s probably not worth the stress and anxiety that follows either.

3) It’s in your best interests.

We were never designed to carry the weight of the world. Unfortunately, the more we scroll and absorb, the heavier things start to feel. If it wasn’t bad enough, many papers and articles seem to be going in circles, leaving us confused and depressed at the same time.

Here’s my proposition to you.

Set up boundaries around what you look at. If you really want to stay ‘up to date’ with COVID-19, allocate ten minutes a day to go online. That’s it. Better yet, trust that you have the essential information and move on. The reality is, if there’s a huge breakthrough that pertains to you, you’ll hear about it without having to look for it. That’s just the nature of our interconnected world.

“Take a step back to see the forest for the trees.”

Once you take a breath and remove the responsibility off of yourself to know the answers, you’ll start to feel a little more like yourself again. The reality is, you can be a responsible citizen and follow regulations without obsessing over every new theory and article.

It’s for your own good.

In Closing,

In this frightening, overwhelming season of our lives, it’s ok to not have all of the answers. Trust that you know enough to make a positive impact. Trust that the right information will get to you without you having to obsess over every detail. Trust that we will get through this as a collective, responsible community.

We were never created to carry the weight of the world. Take a breath. Put the screen down. Let the COVID-19 experts be COVID-19 experts…

…and keep your sanity.