In times of crisis, whether it’s a natural disaster, a global pandemic, or economic uncertainty, human behavior often reveals profound truths about the state of society.

Shortages of essential goods and frenzied consumers stockpiling items they may not even need—these scenes have become all too familiar in recent years. Yet, beneath the surface of this seemingly irrational behavior lies a complex interplay of psychological, social, and economic factors that offer profound insights into our societal realities.

It is a behavior that speaks volumes about our collective fears, anxieties, vulnerabilities, and, perhaps most importantly, the critical need for strong critical thinking.

One can vividly recall the panic buying frenzy that gripped Mokokchung in 2013, sparked by misinformation about a salt shortage. The community was so overwhelmed that the MCCI had to resort to loudspeaker announcements urging calm.

Similarly, during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, we witnessed another surge in panic buying. Most recently, just last week, we experienced another bout of panic buying, this time concerning fuel shortages in Mokokchung. Panic buying, which happens quite often in Mokokchung, is almost always triggered by fear and misinformation.

At its core, panic buying is a manifestation of fear and uncertainty. When faced with a perceived threat—whether real or exaggerated—individuals often react instinctively, seeking to regain a sense of control over their lives. In the face of uncertainty, hoarding supplies provides a psychological buffer against feelings of vulnerability and helplessness. It’s a primal response, perhaps rooted in our evolutionary past, where survival often depended on the accumulation of resources in times of scarcity.

Panic buying is very often fueled by misinformation and social contagion—the spread of emotions, behaviors, and ideas within groups of people. When individuals witness others engaging in panic buying, it triggers a herd mentality, compelling them to follow suit out of fear of missing out or being left behind. In today’s hyperconnected world, rumors and sensationalist news headlines spread like wildfire, amplifying fear and exacerbating the sense of urgency. Social media platforms, in particular, serve as breeding grounds for panic, as individuals succumb to the herd mentality.

However, beyond individual psychology and social dynamics, panic buying also reflects broader societal values and priorities. In a hyper-consumerist culture driven by materialism and instant gratification, the accumulation of goods often equates to a sense of security and well-being. The relentless pursuit of more has conditioned many to equate possessions with happiness and fulfillment. Thus, when faced with a crisis, the impulse to stockpile goods may stem from a deeply ingrained belief that material abundance is synonymous with safety and comfort.

In addressing the phenomenon of panic buying, it is essential to recognize that it’s not merely a matter of individual greed or selfishness. Rather, it’s a symptom of deeper societal anxieties and systemic issues perpetuated by insecurity and ignorance that demand attention and action.

Furthermore, there is also an urgent need for developing the skill of critical thinking—to pause, reflect, and evaluate the information at hand. Critical thinking empowers individuals to question assumptions, challenge narratives, and discern fact from fiction. It encourages skepticism in the face of sensationalist headlines and misinformation, urging individuals to seek out reliable sources, verify information, and make informed decisions based on evidence and reason.

Let Mokokchung’s experiences with panic buying serve as a lesson. In the face of recurring panic buying episodes triggered by fear and misinformation, it becomes evident that these instances underscore the importance of fostering a culture of critical thinking. By fostering a culture of critical thinking and responsible media consumption, we can break the cycle of fear and misinformation.

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