As with most of my stories, this one begins with Yahoo Answers. Someone named Jess asked a simple question:
"How much water should you drink a day?"
Everybody knows the old adage, that you should drink 8 glasses of water a day. Most of us don't really question it because we've heard it so many times and everybody knows you need water to live. Don't fix it if it ain't broken, right?
Well, not really. If you actually look up this factoid, you'll find that most of the returned articles are about how this commonly accepted rule is not necessarily true. In fact, numerous studies indicate that most individuals are just fine if they have a beverage with meals and otherwise let their thirst guide them. When you think about it, it's ridiculous to assume that a 25 year old athlete and a relatively sedentary retiree would have the same water requirements, so why would both of them chug down 8 glasses of water (in addition to meals and other beverages) every single day? One expends a lot more energy and sweat in an average day than the other, all of which needs to be recouped to maintain a regulated level of hydration. Chances are, they don't have the same diets either, or live in identical climates.
I composed my answer, which pretty much says all of this same stuff. I included links to articles from Scientific American, the CBC, and Snopes. I consider all of these to be somewhat reliable sources and all of them agree on the facts: for a normally functioning person, thirst is a perfectly fine indicator that your body needs water and the "8 glasses of water a day" rule is little more than a myth.
I returned to look at the question again an hour or two later. Seven other people responded, predictably, with everything but these facts. Most referred back to the 8 glasses a day rule; a few went into specific numbers, such as 2L a day; another one dictated that the only sure-fire way to know if your body needs water is to look at the colour of your pee -- this one was a self-proclaimed expert on the subject, since he was a "combat veteran." I'm not sure what I would do if I felt parched, but didn't have to pee. I'd be fucked.... and thirsty.
Out of all these answers, only one was repeatedly down-voted: my answer, of course. And yet, I'm the only person who even bothered to provide a source and explain my reasoning. Should I take a combat veteran's word over Scientific American's? Does ★Love Addict★™ know more about water intake than the CBC's sources? According to the users over on Yahoo Answers: yes, I should and yes, he does.
This phenomenon makes me wonder why people would go so far out of their way to make their lives so much more complicated than they need to be, even when plainly presented facts tell them otherwise. One poster specifically referenced my answer and implied that this was a dangerous way to live your life, because you'll constantly be dehydrated if you only rely on your thirst and common sense.
It seems people aren't even interested when you tell them: "it doesn't have to be this way." You'd think it would be a revelation to marathon water drinkers that they can ease up a little and just drink when they're thirsty or eating. It sounds too good to be true, I guess, and anything that simple must be a lie.
The food industry capitalized on the same thought process when they discovered they could charge you 5 dollars for a box of flour, sugar, dried eggs, and baking soda, and call it a cake mix. In turn, consumers seem to have accepted the notion that a cake is too difficult and complicated to make themselves, even when every single ingredient is readily available at any common supermarket. Likewise, it seems these individuals on Yahoo Answers have come to terms with the notion that even their own body can't tell when they need a drink of water, so someone else needs to tell them when and how much. I honestly wonder how far you would have to push someone of this mindset before they decide to listen to their gut instincts?