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Is Watching Shark Week Deadlier than Actual Sharks?

SharkAs a child, I loved watching movies about summer vacations. To someone from a low-income household whose summer adventures were circumscribed to the occasional elementary school-run day camp, the idea of vacationing was exotic – regardless of whether the family went to Walley World (National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation) or to a charming Massachusetts beach town like Amity (JAWS). Even the latter, where an insatiable Great White swallows poor beachgoers whole, seemed preferable to languishing away hours reading comics in my sweltering bedroom, ignoring my mom’s relentless nagging to ‘go play outside.’

 Although many cast JAWS aside as simply a horror movie, to me, it’s always been much more. It’s a classic-if-not-quintessential man vs. beast odyssey, not much unlike those found in Greek mythology. But whether you classify the film as horror or adventure, JAWS undeniably plays to certain fears. Galeophobia (the fear of sharks) is akin to a fear of the dark in that it taps into an anxiety of being unable to see those things which may harm us. In terms of sharks, however, this fear is largely misguided.

According to the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA), an estimated 180 million Americans take 2 billion beach trips annually. By contrast, National Geographic reports that there are only about an average of 19 shark attacks in the U.S. annually – and only one proves fatal in a two-year period. So, if you’re super cautious, maybe it makes sense to avoid the .000000025% risk.

In other words, the ‘beast’ in this particular ‘man vs. beast’ struggle is not the shark; it’s our own unfounded fears.

Of course, it doesn’t help that Shark Week is ramping up. This is a huge event for many – not the least of which, the Discovery Channel, which hosts this week-long elasmobranch extravaganza every summer. It amps up the risks and the fears in a most sensational fashion. This Sunday, for example, Michael Phelps will apparently race a shark.

No. Seriously.

Like most Americans, I enjoy a little sensationalism. But upon closer examination, I’ve found there are other everyday activities far riskier than a swim in the ocean. In fact, watching Shark Week may be deadlier than sharks themselves.

Did you know, for example, that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a report warning people of death-by-HDTV?  From 2000 to 2011, 349 people died from toppling furniture and appliances – usually flat screen TVs. Since Leichtman Research suggests 81% of Americans own at least one flat screen (about 260,334,000 people), the aforementioned hazard carries an approximate risk of.000025% – three decimal places greater than a fatal shark attack for those who are counting.

Let’s also say you enjoy celebrating Shark Week in style. You decide to pop a cork of your favorite bubbly. Just know that it’s far likelier that a rogue champagne cork – not a rogue shark – will take your life. Of the 300 million bottles produced each year, an average of 24 will pop their tops in a way that leaves imbibers with a headache from which they’ll never recover (that’s .000008%).

And let’s assume you say “To heck with Shark Week. I’ll just sit here twiddling my thumbs.” That’s not advisable, either. Apparently, you can literally die from boredom (boredom has a pesky way of leading to unhealthy habits and poor life choices). 

In other words, go do that thing that, as a child, I so longed to do. Go out and explore the world. It’s okay to let loose now and then. Resetting is good! Not only does taking a vacation make good business sense, it makes good sense from a health perspective.  It’s riskier not to take that trip, not to unplug, not to unwind. So what are you waiting for? You’ve worked so hard thus far this year. Why are you still at your screen reading this? Take the plunge. Or at least consider wading.

Brock Faucette, Corporate Communications Manager, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Shark courtesy of Shutterstock

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