A new trend has taken the world by storm because of the coronavirus pandemic, and it is very possible that you have already seen it in action in your own communities. You may have even participated. Lots of us have. Yes, I'm talking about panic buying.
Suddenly you're seeing friends, family, neighbors, people you thought were fairly level-headed, are scrambling through their local big box stores, stuffing their carts with as many rolls of toilet paper and bottles of hand sanitizer as they can possibly fit.
Meanwhile, the more reasonable folks in your community are unable to find a six-pack of Charmin Ultra on their local Target store shelves. This is not only a major inconvenience for those who are not losing their grip, but it also makes them question the confidence they had basic social decency.
“When people are stressed their reason is hampered, so they look at what other people are doing,” said Sander van der Linden, an assistant professor at Cambridge University. “If others are stockpiling it leads you to engage in the same behavior. People see photos of empty shelves and regardless of whether it’s rational it sends a signal to them that it’s the thing to do.”
Panic buying is a bizarre form of groupthink. We are constantly looking at what everyone else is doing, and we assume that there is somehow legitimacy in numbers.
Just about every health professional who has been engaged with the coronavirus outbreak has strongly suggested that all of us practice social distancing. But cramming together in the toilet paper aisle does not constitute social distancing.
Neither does this:
It's not just important that you have what you need, but that everyone else has what they need as well. Friends, family, and neighbors will also need access to hand sanitizer, and toilet paper, if you are going to avoid contagion. Contrary to trendy belief, keeping your hands and behind clean is only half the battle. Those around you will also need to do the same, and they cannot do so if you have bought it all up.
Panic buying leads us to abandon social distancing, and it stops everyone from getting what they need. Best to buy what you need, a little extra, and leave some behind for the next guy.