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Weeknotes 2022.02

A few things I’ve been thinking about this week. The second post of a pair, which may or may not become a series, inspired by Jonathan Rothwell.

There’s a bit in Paul Beatty’s book The Sellout which says

That’s the problem with history, we like to think it’s a book—that we can turn the page and move the fuck on. But history isn’t the paper it’s printed on. It’s memory, and memory is time, emotions, and song. History is the things that stay with you.

I don’t think we’ll ever again speak of that first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK without mentioning illegal parties at Downing Street. They made no difference to any of us at the time—we didn’t know they were happening—but we all feel the gut-punch now.

Parties pale into insignificance compared to the unfathomable loss of life, a blow we have not yet collectively absorbed. Perhaps we can’t absorb it while continuing to grieve more COVID-19 deaths in the UK each day than terrorism has caused in the century to date; a Lockerbie of life lost each day.

But that insignificant image has such emotional weight that it will stay with us, and—I suspect—become a prominent dark thread in the tapestry of the history of the pandemic in the UK.

Wendy and I enjoyed dinner at Hibou Blanc for the first time this week. Neither of us could remember the word hibou from French lessons, which is not at all unusual. Neither of us looked it up out of curiosity before we went, which is very unusual.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to think that public health agencies, and probably healthcare providers, should disengage from (e.g.) Twitter. We have ample evidence that most social media is harmful to the public’s mental health. As agencies charged with improving health, we shouldn’t be driving people to engage with something we know to be harmful for many.

This week, I changed my mind. I would have always said that it is crucial that public health messages reach people; it’s self-evident that social media allows us to do just that. It’s a weak argument to suggest that people stick around on social media for the public health messages, so engagement with these sites isn’t really promotion. The risks of the small degree of acceptability conferred by the appearance of trusted organisations are almost certainly outweighed by the benefits of reaching people who would otherwise not see relevant messages.

I’m not sure what made me ponder these issues this week, but it’s an issue on which I’ve entirely changed my view, almost overnight, based on no new evidence.

This post was filed under: Weeknotes.

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