[Mass hysteria—other names include collective hysteria, group hysteria, or collective obsessional behavior—is the spontaneous manifestation of the same or similar hysterical physical symptoms by more than one person.
A common manifestation of mass hysteria occurs when a group of people believe they are suffering from a similar disease or ailment.]
People get a little nutty around the edges when they think there’s something suspicious floating around. Maybe it’s caused by a version of hypochondria? I don’t know.
And Mass Hysteria has been around for a long time.
- Dancing mania (e.g. Dancing Plague of 1518)
- Halifax Slasher
- Mad Gasser of Mattoon
- Salem witch trials
- Spring Heeled Jack
And there are some that are more recent, such as the LeRoy, New York incident:
“In late 2011, 12 high school girls developed Tourette-like symptoms. Their school was tested for toxins, and all other factors for their symptoms were ruled out. The case, and some of the girls and their parents gained national media attention. In January 2012, several more students and a 36-year-old adult female came forward with similar symptoms. They were all diagnosed with conversion disorder which doctors said had resulted from a traumatic experience earlier in their lives and was triggered by recent stress and anxiety”
And while most of these have to do with physical manifestations of some imaginary suspicion or paranoia, there are new outbreaks of mass hysteria everyday.
And all over the internet in general.
Today, my office received an “URGENT EMAIL – DO NOT DELETE – NEW VIRUS WARNING”
Basically telling us that if we opened any emails that were coming with an invitation to retrieve a holiday e-card, then we were going to inadvertently fry our harddrives, and possibly melt our brains as well.
That this was “The WORST VIRUS EVAAARR”, as told to them by “Dave’s brother, a high muckity-muck at Microsoft”.
So, after I read through the email, which cited Microsoft (through Dave’s brother, although… who’s Dave? And why do we listen to his brother?), CNN, and Snopes.com – I decided to dig for myself.
I went to the Snopes website and read all the way to the bottom of their article about the “Hallmark Virus”.
It’s not new, it’s been around for years, in different forms.
It’s not “The Worst Virus Ever” – CNN never said that. (Kinda figured, but had to check it anyway)
And Snopes said that the easiest way to avoid the problem? Don’t copy and paste a URL into your browser from an email.
Internet Safety 101.
Maybe there should be courses out there to instruct people on this… and maybe it should be required in schools as well. Teach young people how to avoid the viruses and worms in the first place, get the older generations before they’re allowed access to the “net”… a course you have to pass before your computer will let you log in for the first time?
I like the sound of that.
Kinda like those breathalyzers they hook up to repeat offenders’ cars.
You can’t pass? You get your keys yanked until you can.
Of course, then there’d be mass hysteria over the fact that someone’s telling you that you can’t access the internet.
Someone told the Internet Nazis I can’t be allowed to google LOLCats!”