Please note: This post is my personal opinion and talks about my anxiety around track and trace. This is not a factual piece and therefore, please note this is based on my thoughts and feelings.
Track and trace. The three words that should provide comfort but in reality, invoke strong feelings of anxiety.
Now, before I launch into why the track and trace app fills me with anxiety, I understand why we should all be using it. I understand that on some level it’s supposed to help identify people who might have been in contact with someone who has COVID and I understand that we all have to take responsibility for ourselves and help to keep others safe. And to that end, it’s a good thing. However, for someone like me who struggles with anxiety and quite frequently, paranoia, it’s a scary thing to welcome into your life.
‘Download the app or leave’
We’re lucky in Wales that we’ve just come out of lockdown. For me and my partner, who live in the first place in Wales to go into local lockdown, we feel really strange having more freedom. I definitely felt quite anxious when I ventured into Cardiff to take my car for an MOT. To pass the time, I went into a well-known coffee shop to do some work while I waited. I was wearing my face mask, sanitising my hands and keeping a safe distance from people. I was also very excited about being able to sit inside a coffee shop and enjoy my drink at leisure. When I got to the till and ordered, the lady asked if I’d scanned the QR code for track and trace. I said I didn’t have the app and asked if I could write my details down for her. She looked at me and said ‘If you don’t download the app and scan the code, you’ll have to leave.” I was pretty embarrassed to say the least and so, while she stared daggers at me, I downloaded the app, scanned the code and she gave me my drink.
The anxiety and paranoia is real
What I was immediately met with on the app were red warnings and ‘the area you are in is a high risk area’ and language that just scared the crap out of me. I’ve tried to protect my mental health over the past few months by deleting news apps, taking anything said on social media with a pinch of salt and only watching the TV news. I know COVID is real but if I think too much about it, I’d be so anxious and paranoid I wouldn’t be able to leave the house. In the two months of local lockdown, I’d been living under a rock in terms of the track and trace app. I’d written my details down in local coffee shops, given a phone number in the pub and my other half gave his information sometimes too.
Here are the 4 reasons I have track and trace app anxiety:
1.It uses location settings
I always keep these switched off because after watching several programmes about apps, data and tracking your movements, I freaked myself out and decided this was something I could control and switch off. Admittedly, it’s an issue when I want to use Google Maps and I’ve forgotten to turn it back on! I realise that we are living in a ‘Big Brother state’ where our every move is tracked and every word is listened to in some fashion or other but, if I could limit my paranoia about it, then turning off these settings makes me feel better. Obviously with track and trace, they always need to be on. Is this just so you can log details or are they spying on where we’re going, who we’re seeing and if we’re breaking any lockdown laws?
2.It shows how high risk your area is
Admittedly, this can be very useful for some people. However, for someone like me who tends to catastrophise and be anxious about everything, it just makes me want to hide in the house and never leave. Everywhere we turn, we’re faced with stats and stories and red warnings and negative language probably designed to scare us. And I totally get it. There’s a life-threatening virus that’s taking over the world and we need to be careful and aware of it. But how damaging is it for people with a mental health condition who a prone to have panic attacks and raging anxiety? We should be protecting ourselves as best we can.
3.It captures far too much of your data
We watched a programme about how much data these apps take and record. It’s eye opening for sure. The first incarnation of the COVID app I did download to try and help the efforts. I logged in daily to tell the government I was feeling fine, thank you. However, then there was a news story that said data that was taken from the app would be used by third parties and for other reasons which they never specified. I immediately deleted the app and all of my information that went with it. Keeping people’s data safe is so important, especially if you’re the government or the NHS. People are trusting those organisations with their data and information about their lives. This makes me really paranoid and worried about where exactly my data is going to end up.
4.Some places make you download it
I think there should be other options available. There should be the app, somewhere to write down your details or just the option to give your full name and contact number just in case. I know this probably isn’t an option for bigger places. I also know that writing your details down on a piece of paper isn’t that safe but for someone like me with anxiety and paranoia, I feel a bit more trusting in this old fashioned way of doing things.
From reading this, it sounds like I’m being very uncooperative but I’m not. I would just like for there to be an option, if you don’t have or don’t want the app, for you to give your information. In the end, it’s a strange time we’re living in and we all have to pull together. If it means having to download an app in order to show willing, then I guess me and my anxiety will just have to get over it.