With easy access to smartphones, computers, televisions, newspapers, magazines, and a plethora of other information accessibility capable devices, we essentially have the world at our fingertips with information at the click of a button and new knowledge almost instantly. However, what happens when these various sources of media provide information, but information that sways the opinion of the reader into thinking something is more likely than it is? Or watching the newest blockbuster movie, and slowly but surely developing fears of things that are relatively unlikely to happen?
Take for example a lethal home invasion. A seemingly rational fear, of course, the thing that goes bump in the night is an intruder, and any second they’re going to burst through the door, attack you, and steal everything valuable from your home. This feeling prevails especially after watching a scary movie, and with plenty of home invasion movies out in the world, for example, Home Invasion, The Purge, Hush, and Tiger House, to name a few, this idea is of home invasion is furthered. However, this is not exactly the case. Michael Moore, a renowned documentary filmmaker who worked on such films as Bowling for Columbine and and Fahrenheit 9/11 breaks down the notion that a person is likely to be killed during a home invasion, in an article for PunditFact he explained that people who die from home invasion makeup only .04% of all gun murders in the United States.
Sharks also have a bad reputation. According to an article by live science, at the turn of the century shark attacks were basically unheard of, and there were cash rewards if people could prove they had been bitten by a shark. However, in 1916 this perception of sharks began to change. There was a string of shark attacks along the New Jersey coast, this string of shark attacks also happened to be the inspiration for Jaws. Following that, World War Two would begin. At this time planes and sea travel was used quite a bit, and ships did sink, and planes went down causing more and more stories of shark attacks that start circling the world. This also helped to further their reputations as dangerous monsters.
Later on, Jaws came out, and post jaws there was a sudden influx of shark fishing tournaments to try and catch sharks for the monsters they were. Following these shark hunts, shark populations dwindle, some even got as low as 90%.
Movies, however, are not only to blame for an increase in fear, but 24-hour news coverage also plays a hand in it. According to a psychology today article, “people who had watched negative new bulletin spent more time thinking and talking about their worry and were more likely to catastrophize their worry,” and with news taking up a 24-hour role, this fear can be widespread. To fill the time a newscaster, of course, has to talk. But when they run out of new news they often end up trailing back to old news, or after a scare has just happened the station will often dwell on that fear until they’ve wrung out every detail from the story over and over again.
News that’s not 24-hour news can also affect people’s fear. On Sunday, October 30th, 1938, H.G. Wells went on the air and read from his book The War of The Worlds, which is essentially a story about Aliens invading earth. He introduced the broadcast himself, then seemingly talked to a reporter about what they were seeing at the alleged crash site. History.com states that up to a million people believed the planet was actually being invaded by martians. In New Jersey highways were jammed because so many people were trying to flee and people were begging police for gas masks to help save them from the invasion. Civilians also helped further this fear of the Martian invasion themselves, a woman in Indianapolis went to a church and told everyone that New York had been destroyed in the invasion. His broadcast had also caused riots as well.