Social Media & the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Take a minute to think back to the start of the 2020 New Year. What were some of the things you were hoping to cross off your bucket list? Many of you probably wanted to travel, go zip lining, have a long relaxing weekend away from home, or try new foods. Spring cleaning and being forced to stay home and quarantine were probably not things that made it on the top of your 2020 bucket list.

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The start of the 2020 calendar year got off to an unexpected start. As the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19) disrupted the typical lives of millions of individuals all over the country. In the United States, many governors have implemented “stay home orders” in hopes of containing the spread of the virus. As many schools and businesses have shut down, millions of individuals are confined to their homes with no opportunity to get out and socialize. How are individuals coping with this uncertainty and drastic change in their lifestyles?

Social media can be seen as helpful when it comes to staying connected. But, is it doing more harm than good when looking specifically at the Coronavirus Pandemic?

During the Coronavirus Pandemic, social media is allowing individuals to easily stay connected with one another. There are many different platforms out there that are available for all different types of individuals. For example, image-based platforms like  Snapchat, Skype, Tik Tok, Instagram, Vine, and Youtube are all platforms that allow individuals to visually see each other remotely. Individuals are also able to show others what they are up to or what they are doing while having to stay home. These platforms allow individuals to create virtual hangouts, workout together or toast a drink with a friend all without leaving the comfort of their own home (Pajer 2020).

There are also platforms that are more text-based that allow individuals to share information such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Tumblr. Through the use of words, individuals can share stories, rediscover old connections, learn about other’s experiences, and stay in contact and up to date on what others are doing (Pajer 2020). In today’s society, access to social media is quite easy. Social media allows endless opportunities for anyone to post anything at any given time or in any given place. Therefore, social media has a huge risk of spreading incorrect information when it comes to the discussion about the Coronavirus Pandemic.

With social media at the fingertips of millions of individuals information and access to information is just a click away. This unprecedented level of real-time information is causing individuals to become more anxious about what is to come during this time of uncertainty. Even though experts are trying to share accurate and helpful information thousands of other users are posting and sharing rumors, other disinformation, and inaccurate statistics (De La Garza 2020). Experts cannot keep up with all the incorrect and misleading information. Their posts are less likely to be reposted and spread as everyday individuals have a hard time differentiating correct from incorrect information. Experts also have a harder time getting their posts out there from the start due to the social media platforms algorithms (De La Garza 2020).

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With the easy available access to social media, the chance to be targeted by a scam is also increased. During this time of uncertainty, communities are trying to come together and bring the best out in one another. However, there are some individuals using this time of uncertainty to try to take advantage of others. These scammers with the help of social media have endless opportunities to try to take advantage of others (De La Garza 2020).

Not only is social media spreading fake and incorrect information about the Coronavirus, social media also encourages teens and young adults to try and contract the virus. This is being down through the form of a challenge shared through social media, which is called the Coronavirus Challenge. This challenge encourages individuals to lick public objects such as grocery store carts and doorknobs to see if the individual then becomes infected with the virus (WSAZ News Staff 2020).

Being more media savvy won't stop the spread of 'fake news ...
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So what can you do to help stop the spread of the incorrect news and information about the Coronavirus on social media? An action that is easy for any individual to take to help prevent the spread is by taking a few extra seconds to fact check the information with a reliable source such as National Institutes of Health, Mayo Clinic, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites (AspenideasFestival 2018). Another way to stop the spread of false information is by not reposting or sharing the information unless you are 100% certain it is correct. It is better to not post or repost information that may be incorrect rather than posting or reposting incorrect information.

References

De la Garza, A. (16 March 2020). How social media is shaping our fears of – and response to – the coronavirus. Time. Retrieved on March 26, 2020 from https://time.com/5802802/social-media-coronavirus/

Pajer, N. (21 March 2020). 40 ways to maintain social ties during the coronavirus quarantine. Parade. Retrieved on March 26, 2020 from https://parade.com/1011597/nicolepajer/ways-to-stay-social-coronavirus/ 

WSAZ News Staff. (26 March 2020). Social media challenge has teens trying to get COVID-19. Mountain News WYMT. Retrieved on March 26, 2020 from https://www.wymt.com/content/news/Social-media-challenge-has-teens-trying-to-get-COVID-19-569141411.html

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