A quick scroll through your news feed, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, shows troves of content surrounding 2020’s biggest news story, so far, Coronavirus or COVID-19.
There’s been other pandemics of recent years, think H1N1 or Ebola, but none of them seem to have caused such a big stir. Is this virus really all that different, or is the mass influence of social media impacting people beyond a level to which they even realise?
Today, Jordan Baker, CEO of Sanity Marketing who has worked with over 140 clients from the House of Commons to the Crowne Plaza Hotel chain, reveals 5 ways that social media is making the Coronavirus worse:
1. False health advice – it’s great that social media has the power to provide instantaneous information, but should you trust it? Myths and potentially dangerous information are spreading more quickly than official sources – trusted figures from the government or international organisations such as the WHO – can provide updates. Avoid listening to and sharing posts from random sources, instead relying on scientific, fact-based official messages on the necessary actions.
2. Fear – constant updates, whether it be on the latest infection count in x country or x airline cancelling all of their flights, can create mass fear. If you saw a report each time someone was infected with the common cold, it would be just as damaging.
3. Censorship – certain countries have the power to censor what content is being posted. The popular Chinese social media app ‘WeChat’ was recently busted for controlling Coronavirus-related content since the outbreak started on 31st December.
Rather worryingly, the list of banned phrases includes ‘”Li Wenliang” – the ophthalmologist in Wuhan who first blew the whistle about Coronavirus. Li was forced to sign a letter saying he had lied about the virus before suddenly dying of virus itself on February 6. His sudden death triggered suspicion and thousands of posts calling for freedom of speech. Those posts were quickly censored too, according to a recent report by Citizen Lab.
4. Photos or videos taken out of context – when the quarantine of Wuhan was first enforced earlier in the year, videos surfaced online
showing people ‘dropping like flies’ in the streets. Many of these videos were later proven to be fake, recorded months before or purposely staged to create more panic and fear. Efforts by social media platforms haven’t stopped the spread of falsified posts and videos, some of which have received 1000’s of likes and shares.
5. Everyone has an opinion – social media gives everyone a voice, but some take this opportunity and use it in a negative way. Conspiracy theories about ‘scientists predicting the Coronavirus will kill 65 million people’ and that ‘Chinese spies have smuggled the virus out of a lab in Canada’ are just some of the posts one can view on social media, further contributing to the problem of widespread misinformation.