Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Silverado Fire is about 25 miles away. I just packed an overnight bag and ten cans of dog food into the car. Not that I expect to evacuate, but you never know. Besides, it felt good to act on the only news I can actually do something about. Flee. Hey, it’s an option.

Yesterday’s news.

There is a lot of news about pandemic fatigue these days. But I wonder if it’s more a case of news overload in general. Not just the pandemic, but all of it–the election, the economy, the urgent warnings to Christmas shop early. There is, of course, a historical precedent. It was called “Radio Fatigue” and was caused by: “Too much listening to emotional broadcasters of war news who stimulate ‘ephemeral emotions which cannot build tanks, but does disturb digestions.'”

Have any ephemeral emotions ruined your appetite lately? Well, the sociologists saw it coming.

On Feb. 26, 1942, less than three months after Pearl Harbor, the Los Angeles Times ran this article:

Los Angeles Times, Feb. 26, 1942 (partial article)

By 1940, 28 million American households (about 82.8 %) owned a radio. The average family listened to it more than four hours a day. But by February, 1942, they were listening even more. Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941. Americans entered a war while still suffering from the Great Depression. Lives were disrupted, families were separated, no one knew how long it would last. My dad, a college senior in November, found himself a private in the Army Air Corps in January, wearing a new uniform, leaving his family and fiancée like so many others. No wonder people were glued to their radios.

Which led the February 1942 American Sociological Review to worry that listening to the radio could lead to people becoming over emotional, draining their energy and reducing morale. The article pointed out that the same news was repeated pointlessly all day long, interspersed with angry or passionate commentary. While you can stop and reflect while you read a newspaper, the radio pushes you along, giving you no pause to consider the credibility of its reporting. The Review recommended that people “put more energy into their everyday routine and for us speedily to find war-effort jobs for everyone not otherwise employed.” Otherwise, “people will ’emote’ too much and damage their mental and physical health by contracting ‘radio fatigue.'”

And here we are in 2020. It’s a different world. But people still want to know what’s going on and how our world is changing. Our digital devices are more than willing to oblige. So after reading a number of articles like, “Pandemic Fatigue, It’s Real and It’s Spreading,” (WSJ, Oct. 27, 2020), I concluded that there are at least three kinds of pandemic fatigue.

First is the burnout of healthcare and other essential workers who have been working with the disease every day for ten months with no end in sight. Second is the frustration of people who want to reclaim their lives and/or their livelihoods and just get back to normal. And third is old-fashioned “radio fatigue,” the constant repetition of news and statistics and opinions and contradictions.

“Radio fatigue” is the only one I can do something about. I still have news alerts activated on my IPhone and IPad, but I went into settings and turned off the alert sound weeks ago. I read most of my news on line or listen to podcasts. I watch a little news on television, but switch to entertainment — sci fi (“Raised by Wolves” at the moment), mysteries (“Shakespeare and Hathaway”), or light movies or an absorbing book. In short, I flee.

Something to consider: “Data from the American Community Survey found that 83.8 percent of households owned a computer in 2013. This compares with the national average of households owning a radio in 1940, and a television in 1958.” https://www.census.gov/history 

Prevent radio fatigue. Flee. If only for a little while.

Today’s Notable Headlines

“Sick of COVID-19? Here’s why you might have pandemic fatigue,” The Conversation, Oct. 23, 2020, https://theconversation.com/sick-of-covid-19-heres-why-you-might-have-pandemic-fatigue-148294

“In Lubbock, pandemic fatigue sets in as hospitalizations rise,” The Texas Tribune, Oct. 27, 2020. https://www.texastribune.org/2020/10/27/lubbock-pandemic-fatigue-coronavirus/

“International update: Global Covid infections pass 43.5 million – WHO warns of ‘pandemic fatigue,’” Pharmaceutical Technology, Oct. 27, 2020. https://www.pharmaceutical-technology.com/special-focus/covid-19/international-update-global-covid-infections-pass-43-5-million-who-warns-of-pandemic-fatigue/

“Canadians are feeling pandemic fatigue. Experts say ‘greater good’ message isn’t enough,” Global News, Oct. 27, 2020. https://globalnews.ca/news/7424561/coronavirus-canada-pandemic-fatigue/


“Sociological Review says Too Much Listening to War news Reports Stimulates Emotionalism,” Los Angeles Times, Feb. 26, 1942.

“Editorial Notes,” American Sociological Review, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Feb., 1942), pp. 107-114 (8 pages)Published by: American Sociological Association.

“Golden Age of Radio in the U. S., https://dp.la/exhibitions/radio-golden-age/radio-homefront

The United States Census Bureau, https://www.census.gov/history/www/homepage_archive/2015/march_2015.html#:~:text=By%20the%201940%20Census%2C%2028,of%20households%20owning%20a%20radio.

Why am I doing this?

The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. It is my intention to journal the pandemic experience from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary crisis.

You are on History’s Edge.

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