Roger’s 2 Cents – 2 of 3 Corona Virus Edition

Fear and Information

Video Transcript:

Hi, this is Dr. Roger Hall. This is the second episode of Roger’s 2 Cents as it relates to the Corona Virus. In the last segment I talked about fear and control and how fear and control are inextricably linked. How there’s very often a legitimate relationship between fear and control. 

In this segment, I want to talk about fear and information gathering. When we can’t control something, when there’s a thing in our life that we can’t control, what we then do is we substitute information gathering. Now, my favorite example of this is the Weather Channel. None of us can control the weather, which is why the weather channel exists. We can’t control it. So we spend time and actually the weather channel makes I think $385 million a year. That’s how profitable information gathering is in times of anxiety. So things that we can’t control, we start to gather as much information as possible.

That’s why news organizations exist. CNBC. I think a great example are the Bloomberg terminals, which are information gathering terminals that give investors and financial advisors early information about what’s happening in the market. Well that’s an $8 billion a year business. There is a great deal of profit in the management and dissemination of information when people can’t control things. Now those of you who are living on the East coast where you have a lot of public transport, here’s my question for you. When people are standing on the, on the subway platform or the train platform or waiting for a bus, if they’re not looking at their phone, where are they looking? Well, they’re looking down the track. They’re there. They’re trying to gather information of when the train is coming or when the, when the subway is coming, when the bus is coming, they look down the track and you will see people.

And I, you know, I spent a lot of time watching people because I find people inherently entertaining. You’ll see people looking down the track for five minutes to give themselves an eight second advantage over somebody who’s reading the paper or looking at their phone. And so what I see in information gathering is when we don’t control something, like when the train is coming, we spend an inordinate amount of time gathering information that gives us virtually no competitive advantage. It doesn’t help us that much. It may alleviate our fear, but I have a caution there. It may not. It may only make our fear worse. So we spend a ton of time trying to gather information that doesn’t really qualitatively improve our lives. So when I see people and when to talk to people, they’re spending an incredible amount of time doing what? Watching the news. And when they watch the news, I asked them, pay attention to the commercials because the news media is designed to make money.

They are designed to make a profit and they make profit from their advertisers. They don’t make profit from you. They make profit from the advertisers who assume you’ll buy the products. So if you watch a football game, the advertisers know their audience. What are the ads on football games? Pickup trucks, wings, pizza, beer and Viagra. They know their audience, their men who like football, who like pickup trucks, who like fast food and who like to have sex. It’s pretty obvious if you watch the commercials. Who’s watching the show? If you watch the Hallmark Channel, it’s cat food and cat litter, but that’s a topic for another day. 

What’s happening on the news? I encourage you as you watch the news, what are the ads for the news? It’s investing in gold. It’s life insurance. It’s health insurance and it’s prescription medicine for stress related illness, high blood pressure, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, migraine headaches, anxiety, depression.

The advertisers know their audience. People who are worried, afraid, who are prone to stress-related illness, who are worried about what’s happening with their financial future are all watching the news doing this information gathering the news is not interested in telling you that many good stories because it doesn’t sell ads. So I encourage you, one way you can help yourself is a little bit of a news fast. You can get all the information you need in about 10 minutes a day, maybe 20 minutes a day. And I’m talking to people who have CNBC in the background, and they’re watching the stock market ticker every day, all day, and they are freaking out. So I’d encourage you time limit the amount of time you’re watching the news. Information gathering may not give you a competitive advantage, and you’ll find that you become less fearful because you’re not listening to news that’s designed to make you afraid, because that’s what sells the ads. 

And that’s Roger’s 2 Cents.