Why We Worry About the Wrong Things

If any of you get TIME magazine, there's a really interesting article about Americans and the way that we worry about risky things that may kill us. Why are we more afraid of our car's brakes failing, but we aren't afraid of the cancer that our dad and brother have? Why does mad cow disease, which has yet killed no one in the US, scare us more than heart disease, which kills almost 700,000 Americans a year?

The article mentions roller coasters, skydiving, etc. as the habits of thrill-seekers.

So why is it that we thrill-seekers are drawn to roller coasters or whatever our vice may be? Is it the instant gratification feeling that we get? Is it the feeling of being out of control in a controlled environment?

An even better question is this: Why is our society afraid of things like flying in airplanes, riding roller coasters, etc. that have very few injuries/deaths per year associated with them, but still they choose to drink, overeat, sleep with many people who may have diseases, and the like, all of which have many more injuries/deaths associated with them? Roller coasters can easily be compared to some of these other vices, since they all offer that instant gratification feeling.

An even better question: Why is it that many thrill-seekers who love roller coasters wouldn't dare go sky-diving? What constitutes "over the line" for thrill-seeking? Is it like a drug that we get addicted to, and we have to keep looking for the next big thing to give us our fix? Are roller coasters going to eventually be not enough bang for our buck?

I'm just tossing out some interesting questions, hoping to get a good discussion out of this. It's certainly interesting to think about.

Jeff Young
Well like you said, the reason some people won't go sky-diving as compared to riding roller coasters is the "feeling of being out of control in a controlled environment". If your chute doesn't open while sky-diving, and your backup chute doesn't open, you're probably gonna die. There's less of a control factor there.

As compared to roller coasters, where there are backup systems to backup systems, and most deaths on coasters are seemingly caused by rider error, not a ride malfunction. Granted, there can be a few malfunctions with coasters, but most of the time, there are numerous other fail-safes to prevent that. 99% of the time, it's not a life or death situation while riding a coaster. In sky-diving...like I said earlier...you're probably going to die.

As for me, I guess I'm drawn to roller coasters for that "feeling of being out of control in a controlled environment," the speed and sensation of speed that one gets when riding a coaster, with all of the other sensations. I love being out of control, but in an extremely safe manner.

Haha no I'm not giving Patrick the finger

Interesting post Jeff. My wife often wonders a lot about this since she is not a thrill-seeker at all.

I love an adrenalin rush just as much as the next coaster enthusiast. I love being on the edge and being whipped around a crazy new layout. I have also ventured out a little past just coaster riding. I have gone sky-diving, bungee jumping, para-sailing, and I even fly jets for a living. After going through pilot training and being able to fly a fully aerobatic airplane (T-37) everyone told me I would never go back to coasters...but they were wrong. It was incredible flying my own jet and making it do whatever I wanted, but a coaster gets me out in the open with the wind in my face. Plus on a coaster I am not controlling it like the jet...the coaster is taking me for a ride. So to answer your question, I don't think coasters will stop giving me enough bang for my buck, because it offers me something I can't really get anywhere else.

Now to answer one of your other questions. I am not scared to ride or fly an airplane or ride a coaster, but I do not drink, I try to eat right and exercise, my wife and I have been married for 6 and a half years and we saved ourselves until we were married. I guess I am not the typical American because cancer scares the crap out of me, I never think about my brakes failing, and I could care less about mad cows. Maybe since I don't really have any vices like drinking, smoking, etc...riding coasters has become my vice. It lets me let go and have pure thrilling enjoyment for a few minutes.

Just so you all know I was not trying to get up on a soapbox about any particular issue, Jeff just asked some specific questions and I tried to answer them as truthfully as I could in relation to my life. We are all different and make our own choices in life, that is what makes life and freedom so beautiful. *** Edited 12/1/2006 4:52:30 AM UTC by S&SFAN***

People are more scared of their car brakes failing and mad cow disease than cancer and heart disease? Wow, I'm only 21 and I'm definitely more scared and the latter two and have only thought about the former two in relation to it happening on films and Oprah.
coasterqueenTRN's avatar
I have no other "unhealthy" vices (besides an addiction to soda) so my love for heights and speed is my "vice" so to speak, along with music and video games.

I know my love for heights and speed won't give me cancer or cause me to get into trouble with the law for DUI. I can't "OD" on adrenaline. It's that rush that's the ultimate high that NO drug or booze could even come CLOSE to imitating!

What's so funny is I have non-thrill seeking friends who smoke, drink, live on fast food, etc. and they worry more about ME dying than themselves. My one friend in particular is convinced that coasters are more dangerous than automobiles. Then again she believes all the crap and fanfare that goes with an accident involving a coaster. Anytime there is a coaster accident the media overdoes it with the fear factor. Yet hundreds of people die daily from car accidents, not to mention alcohol, drug, and tobacco-related deaths.

I told her I wanted to get into skydiving and eventually BASE jumping. She thinks I am headed for a certain early death, yet she fails to realize what she's doing to her own body by being so overweight (and not doing anything about it except complain) abusing alcohol, smoking, and living a rather promiscuous lifestyle. Hey, people make their own choices! I certainly have no right to judge. My nearly 35 year-old body has seen its share of abuse in the past. I am not perfect, but it IS interesting how people can judge on what you do when they can't realize what they are doing to themselves it 100 times worse.

I think the WORST thing people can do is WORRY, period. Stress is the #1 killer anyway. And isn't it funny how people worry about the most trivial BS? Just look at the stress with holiday shoppers. They are more worried about getting gifts than their own health.

I think half the crap people worry and complain about is trivial. :)


*** Edited 12/1/2006 11:23:38 AM UTC by coasterqueenTRN***

Jeff's avatar
The irony is that I think people that ride coasters a lot are not particularly thrilled by them. Look at the ridiculous whining enthusiasts do constantly about everything.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

Possibly much in the same way that heroin addicts just can't ever duplicate that first high.

-brian, not that he knows from experience or anything...

janfrederick's avatar

Jeff said:
The irony is that I think people that ride coasters a lot are not particularly thrilled by them. Look at the ridiculous whining enthusiasts do constantly about everything.

That's when a hobby crosses into obsession-land--when it is no longer fun. It happens to a lot of people in a lot of different hobbies. The last time I went to Disneyland, the most miserable folks there seemed to have an awful lot of pins. I know you might not be happy with the way things have been running lately, but come on, you are in the happiest place on earth. You don't have to have a huge grin, but to walk around with a scowl? Sheesh!

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza
Lord Gonchar's avatar
I personally draw a distinction between 'thrilling' and 'fun'

Coasters used to be thrilling and the rush and terror involved is what got me started and kept me coming back. Now, it's more fun. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy it, it just means the experience has changed from the thrill and the rush to silly fun.

Not better or worse, just different. :)

Agree with Gonch's post - I no longer get "excited" about roller coasters any more than I get excited about going to see a movie or playing a good video game. But I still enjoy riding them just as much. I just attribute it to age. With the exception of taking vacations, I rarely get excited about anything anymore.

I always wondered why people are afraid of planes when driving is clearly far more dangerous. I think the answer is that you have a good chance of surviving a car crash, but very little chance of surviving a plane crash. Another reason could be a car crash is instantaneous, whereas a plane crash would be preceded by seconds/minutes of terror. And there's the control issue as well.

[url="http://www.livejournal.com/users/denl42"]My blog[/url] You said, "I'm gonna run you down." I heard, "I'm an orangutan."
So Gonch, would you say that as you have gotten older, things have become more about fun and less about thrill? Or have you found other ways to get your thrills?

Jeff Young
Lord Gonchar's avatar
I don't think for me, it's age as much as experience. I've ridden almost 300 coasters and have visited 10 to 20 parks per year for the last 6 years. It's more of a 'been there, done that' sort of thing or even a tolarance thing like Brian's heroin reference - if you do something enough the initial effect is lost.

As far as age, I do think as I get older that finding that 'thrill' becomes less of an issue. I have other things to worry about. I'm not out partying, I haven't smoked a fatty in ages, I have kids and general responsibility. Finding a 'thrill' is pretty far down on my list these days.

Going out to the park, enjoying myself and having some fun on the coasters is still something I like doing. But it's not the same as it was 10 years ago when I was a 'white knuckle' rides, holding on for dear life.

In fact, it's something I wonder about with my kids. They're 5 and 9 and already have more coaster/park experience than I did just a few years ago. If you're a 9 year old with 200 coasters on your track record including some of the biggest, fastest rides in the world, where do you go from there? It's already to the point where me and my daughter hold conversations on coasters when we ride together. It's crazy! I visited CP with my grandmother when I was 8 and CCMR almost made me cry. At BooBuzz my daughter (8 at the time) was power riding TTD during the morning ERT.

How far we've come. :)

*** Edited 12/1/2006 4:48:08 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***

rollergator's avatar
SO, there appears to be two schools of thought. One is, we're simply jaded. The other is, we need to build a zero-tolerance park, where even jaded enthusiasts can get a thrill... ;)

^ "Smoked a fatty?" LOL! It HAS been ages! ;)

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Was always more of a bong guy myself and always kept my first one just for nostalgia's sake...but even that broke in the last move. :(

I could've used the decidedly 80's term of, "doing bingers" but refrained. ;)

Sigh. When did 33 become old?

*** Edited 12/1/2006 4:58:35 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***

33 has always been old. Remember: never trust anyone over 30.

-brian, on the wrong side of that line himself.

CoasterDiscern's avatar
Sometimes I wonder about my little cousin, or the little kids on the planet in general. Amagne being twelve years old just realizing the way the world functions by discovering flat screen monitors, X-box, a world of cell-phone's ect. If you really try and put yourself in a little kid's shoe you will feel a little bit like an alien. No lie!

Ask not what you can do for a coaster, but what a coaster can do for you.
coasterqueenTRN's avatar

Jeff said:
The irony is that I think people that ride coasters a lot are not particularly thrilled by them. Look at the ridiculous whining enthusiasts do constantly about everything.


Gonch, I feel your pain, buddy. :) That stuff just puts me to sleep nowadays. At (almost) 35 my body just can't handle the crap (as well as booze) like it did when I was 20.

Never "owned" a bong but I had a pipe......once. I haven't seen it in years! :)

Never trust anyone over 30? That's true. I don't trust myself half the time. ;) :)


*** Edited 12/2/2006 1:44:58 AM UTC by coasterqueenTRN***

For the brakes failling and mad cow disease, roller coasters, sky diving, and so on I see the reason why people are more afraid than cancers, and heart diseases, and automobile accidents. They are really in the public eye portrayed by the news.

There is a outbreak or mad cows, and people are afraid to eat meat. Roller coasters is just the pure height, and that gigantic loop over there. It's being afraid of heights really, and falling out. Sky diving is the same way, but you are all alone. It's also much higher up. The same thing goes with brakes failing.

There is a recall by ___, and we have to worry about it because the news said it. The news delivers you "bad" news everyday along with other stuff like weather and sports. Is there an outbreak of heart attacks, or people with cancer.

People figure that they can control the situation as in answer to your question. When you don't have control, people more scared. If I don't smoke, I won't get cancer. If I eat less, and walk more, I won't die of a heart attack.

Roller coasters, and sky diving you can't control. I am not afraid of roller coasters. They are just pure fun. If the ride is boring, I won't ride it.

I think if you are a credit person, you will probably get tired of it very fast. It might not even last until you are 30 or something. To me, these people seem more like a person that cares more about the record than the ride. It's like riding a 2nd Vekoma Junior ride at some park when you have been on a different one at your own park.

However, you only went on the Vekoma Junior because you might have actually thought it would be fun. You find out it wasn't that fun, and you go to another park of a Vekoma Junior just to get another credit on the list. If you don't have fun, what's the point of bragging your numbers.

john peck's avatar
Though I don't fear roller coasters, I ride them and spend time at parks to get away from the fears and reality of everyday life.

How about that?

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