I think it's probably safe to assume that most people are familiar with the word arachnophobia.

For those that aren’t, it describres a person that harbors an unreasonable fear of spiders and other arachnids.

In Ireland the only reported death from a spider bite in recent history happened in 2014. This was not an actual death caused by a spider bite, just news outlets looking for attention, so we’re pretty safe here.

Fear of spiders is a strange thing. The only reasonable explanation for such widespread fear of such a harmless creature (the ones in Ireland at least) must be some lingering ancient evolved trait in humans.

These days we've got a lot more to be fearful of than spiders, and yet it is still a pervasive phobia...

Ever heard of Hodophobia? How about Vehophobia or Amaxophobia? The last one might give it away: Motorphobia.

All of these phobias have something to do with cars:

  • Hodophobia - fear of road travel

  • Motorphobia - general fear of cars

  • Vehophobia - fear of driving a car

  • Amaxophobia - fear of riding in a car

Every year in Ireland 100 - 200 people are killed in road accidents, with hundreds more being seriously injured.

It would be far more rational for us to fear cars as much as we do spiders.

But we don't... Why is that? We fear planes, despite the fact that they are statistically safer.... We fear spiders even though the pose no real threat to us (again speaking about those of us living in Ireland, and probably a lot of the rest of the world).

Why don't we fear cars, smoking, alcohol and heart disease when they pose a much greater threat?

What does it all mean?

We, as a species, are nowhere as rational as we think we are.

We each carry around with us thousands of years of evolutionary baggage that has a lot of say about our day to day behaviors.

In the case of spiders, it makes sense that our ancestors should fear them. They would have posed a very real threat thousands of year ago, before we migrated to less threatening parts of the world, covered everything in concrete and invented anti-venom.

But the fear is still there, you can't simply undo thousands of years of evolution.

Just like you can't speed up evolution.

Our technology moves a lot faster than our brain development. Modern social isolation, junk food, lack of exercise and social media are all things that we don't really know how to deal with. On the surface we appear to be in control of it all, but in reality most of us are struggling.

It takes thousands of years and hundreds of generations for our brains and bodies to adapt to different ways of living, as is evidenced by the ubiquity of arachnophobia.

All of this leads me to a few conclusions.

Firstly, it's hardly surprising that so many of us are unhappy, unfulfilled and unhealthy. Surely this is at least partly a product of our evolutionary baggage colliding with our modern technology.

Secondly, we fear things that pose no threat but do not fear things that pose a legitimate threat. We are not as rational as we think we are so we should all probably cut each other some slack from time to time.

Lastly, it's definitely worth indulging our primitive sides from time to time. Ditch the technology and get back into nature. Try to overcome some sort of physical challenge (lift something heavy or do ten strict pull ups). Grow your own food, or maybe just try to not eat anything processed for a week.

The digital divide

The digital divide

The discomfort radius

The discomfort radius