SHAFAQNA|By Leila Yazdani: The world, as we know it has turned upside down. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is running rampant across the globe, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. With millions on lockdown, Social Media like Facebook and Twitter are major sources of Covid-19 news. But the sudden onset of a new, highly contagious coronavirus has also unleashed pandemic of misinformation.
Social media is one of the best ways to share news nowadays (it may be the only way for some people), especially if we are trying to alert people of something serious in a very, very quick manner. Social media gets the message where it needs to go. In the face of this previously unknown virus, millions of people have been turning to social media platforms in an attempt to stay informed about the latest developments and connected to friends and family.
More than 70% of adults turn to the internet to learn about health and healthcare, a team of researchers in Canada said, as Cnn reported. We are seeing huge shifts in how we consume media and content in the middle of a pandemic. People appetite for stories that inform, comfort, reassure, or entertain, can alter as fast as this crisis does, according to mumbrella. The optimistic view is that social media could prove useful at a time when many of us are otherwise isolated from one another. But, the pessimistic view is that they’re where misinformation thrives.
Social Media and COVID-19: The Good
Conversations around the coronavirus, especially those at the community level, can help us navigate this crisis, says Jeff Hancock, a professor of communication at Stanford University and the director of the Stanford Social Media Lab, Time reported. Social media has educated us about the symptoms of COVID-19–in turn, perhaps saving lives! Scientists and other public health experts are also using social media to more directly engage with the public or discuss emerging research, while community leaders are using it to form ad-hoc volunteer networks to help vulnerable neighbors.
Maybe the best thing that has happened across a variety of social media platforms is the number of professional athletes, celebrities, and influencers that have spoken up urging people to take everything they see about COVID-19 seriously and follow suit. People are more inclined to listen when one of these figures speaks out or shares a message through social media, Business2communit told.
Social Media and COVID-19: The Bad
Unfortunately and in many instances, social media can do just as much bad as it can do good. Social media is great for spreading information and news, but some of that can be misinformation or “fake news.” Popular social media posts are filled with inaccuracies about science. They could damage public health during this coronavirus pandemic, the authors of two separate studies say. One study found that more than one in four of the most popular YouTube videos about the novel coronavirus contained misinformation.
While some of the world’s top epidemiologists and data scientists have spent the last several months warning of the dangers of COVID-19, there are still those denouncing their claims. Some People have called COVID-19 a hoax, others have said it’s not as deadly as has been reported, and others still have made entire documentaries full of false claims and inaccurate data in an attempt to point the finger at world leaders for creating the disease on purpose. Countless people still share their videos and theories without checking the accuracy of their claims.
Misinformation, especially about COVID-19, can cause panic. People who see misinformation on social media may think what they are reading is actually true. If it’s something as important or serious as a worldwide pandemic, you should do a little research to see if what you are reading is actually factual. Otherwise, you may be inclined to share the misinformation and fuel the fear of something that isn’t necessarily true.