Covid-19 and the role of social media

Since the advent of social media, never has there been a global pandemic that has required this large of a lockdown across the globe. The reasons for self-isolation are, by now, well-known – even if you don’t have symptoms of Covid-19, and are young/of good health, it is your responsibility to ensure that you do not spread the virus to the at-risk members of society. Basically, stay home, kids. Yet, in today’s digital world, being locked up does mean voiceless, and it’s been interesting to see the role of social media evolve during what is a global crisis.

One edge of the sword

I have received the majority of my Covid-19 information from social media, and I have largely relied on social to point me at least in the right direction. #Handwashing was trending last week, with people sharing videos of correct technique from doctors, memes of politicians sneezing and then shaking hands, and I must have seen this image of what happens to bread when you don’t wash your hands a hundred times in the last week.

The conversation this has started about general hand cleanliness is, of course, alarming – were you not washing your hands before? But I am impressed with how many of the PSAs I saw were focussed on getting information out there, sharing the latest updates on government action and banding together when many of us are probably feeling isolated in our homes.

The other, dumber edge

Then there’s the misinformation side, and it is part of why every piece of news or tip you see on social from some guy named @notadoctor28 should always be followed up with a quick trip to a credible news source. But it’s also the Instagram accounts with 12 million followers you have to be wary of. No, activated almonds are not going to be the cure for Covid-19. Yes, you will be fine, if not better prepared, if you got a flu shot. And no, there isn’t some secret government plot to infect the elderly. But, you know what? Don’t believe me. I am not a healthcare professional. Take these claims I just made and look them up for yourself on reputable websites. If I’m wrong, go on social and say the right thing. Comment the right things and inform everyone else.

So, in short, use social right now to stay connected. Talk with your friends, approach your local officials and get the word out about cleanliness and what to do (maybe ask people to stop panic buying, that would be nice), but keep your salt jar so that you can grab a grain whenever you’re not sure. Who knows who you’ll help by refuting misinformation.

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