You’re strolling through an intersection, sending text messages to a friend, when you suddenly realize that a city bus is hurtling towards you. Your heart leaps into your chest and you dash to the sidewalk just in time. You were able to move so quickly because your brain triggered the fight or flight response, which is the passing of a message from the amygdala to the hypothalamus that provokes a physical reaction of anxiety (in this case, represented by the heart leaping into the chest). You clearly couldn’t fight a huge bus so you had to flee to safety.
This fight or flight mechanism evolved as a means of ensuring our survival in a primitive, physically dangerous world. However, according to A Virus Called Fear (2012) by Ben Fama Jr., humans are now experiencing the fight or flight response when presented with situations that actually are not life-threatening. For instance, someone might have the same anxious reaction when a stranger walks by and says hello.
This phenomenon seems like a step backward on the evolutionary track, and according to the film, which includes commentary from experts in biology, psychology and sociology, the media is at least partially responsible. It presents us with tons of information about murders, fatal accidents, assaults, and the like, and we perceive these things as life-threatening, even if they aren’t happening directly to us. Since our brains make survival a top priority, this information becomes cemented within our memories and we begin to expect that similar things will happen to us when we’re interacting with others.
A Virus Called Fear serves as a good reminder to disconnect from our electronic devices at times to prevent the incessant stream of information from taking over our minds. It may also serve as a reminder that when strangers smile at us on busy streets, we can consider smiling back, instead of allowing ourselves to feel “creeped out.”
For more information about fear, and how this “virus” can be cured, watch A Virus Called Fear here: