|Year : 2020 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 357-359
Social media during corona pandemic
Sana Dhamija, Suprakash Chaudhury, Daniel Saldanha
Department of Psychiatry, Dr. D. Y. Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Dr. D. Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra, India
|Date of Submission||18-Jun-2020|
|Date of Acceptance||15-Jan-2021|
|Date of Web Publication||15-Mar-2021|
Dr. Suprakash Chaudhury
Department of Psychiatry, Dr. D. Y. Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Dr. D. Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, Pimpri, Pune, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Dhamija S, Chaudhury S, Saldanha D. Social media during corona pandemic. Ind Psychiatry J 2020;29:357-9
In these days of social media and 24 × 7 news, there is a continuous craze for the latest news, the newest remedy, or the most effective strategy to combat an epidemic. There is a profound lack of appreciation that faced with a new organism the minimum need is to know the characteristics of the organism before we can assess what is the best preventive and treatment strategy. However, in this age of instant gratification, everyone wants instant solutions. Nobody wants to waste time on assessment, evaluation, and reflection which should accompany scientific thinking. The malaise is so widespread and deep rooted that even the World Health Organization (WHO) says something today only to contradict it tomorrow. After all which expert wants his video saying “at present we don't know” goes viral. Therefore, pandemics caused by new microbes require unique health communication and education strategies so that public health agencies able to meet the public's information needs about potential risks without embellishment and dramatization.
Social media include all forms of electronic communication that make possible the making and distribution of subject matter created by the user. Social media use saw a staggering ×50 surge from 0.4 million in January to an astounding 20.3 million in March 2020. Social media usage is a double-edged sword in a pandemic. On one hand, it provides information to the masses, helps them be productive and creative, but on the other hand, false information and unverified content are lapped up faster than ice creams on a hot day, leading to disastrous consequences. It is time to recognize that the torrent of contradictory information, misinformation, and manipulated information on social media is a global public health threat. The biggest pandemic issue is viral misinformation.
| Use of Social Media in A Pandemic|| |
Some major health organizations, such as the WHO and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have utilized social network sites such as Twitter and Facebook to share details about Ebola-related news, responses to the crisis, preventive measures, and possible threats during the Ebola outbreak. During a new infectious disease pandemic, the public is uncertain about do's and don'ts for preventing the disease. The critical need for correct health information can be met by social media. Further, the expectation and requirement of continuous and planned communication with the general population on the rapidly changing situation can be effectively carried out through social media.
Currently, social media are helping us in the following ways:
- Telling the count of the new cases every day so that we are more aware and cautious
- Apps being built around how far is the next source of infection or hotspot
- Conducting campaigns such as Karo Namaste and use of hand sanitizer and masks
- Social media are a boon for teachers and students – online lectures, classes, and webinars are on the go
- Various social media challenges for fitness, culinary ways, honing old skills, and acquiring some newer ones
- We are disconnected, cannot step out yet very connected with video calls, knowing how our far-off loved ones are doing currently
- Source of entertainment with the ever-new music, movies, and videos for us
- Delivery of goods and services on a click, on the go
- Availability of help around us with online donations and petitions as well as hotlines for addressing of problems related to mental health during the lockdown and quarantine period.
Basically life has not stopped even when it has seemed to, superficially.
At the same time, some of the harm due to social media includes:
- False information spread is rampant and people are taking any information and assuming it to be true because it is on social media and lapping it up without verification or proof of authenticity
- Generation of anxiety due to false information and ideas, the public is getting more anxious than understanding the true implications of the pandemic. This anxiety leads to impulsive acts and overcrowding, hoarding, excessive buying, and fear
- Too much burden on productivity is there because of high expectations since everyone is doing something, I must also be running, working, and doing something for hobbies attitude has cropped up, leading to more anxiety, depression, and triggers for panic. We are forgetting that this is a pandemic and not a contest at who does the most. We are all under mental burden here
- Too much connectivity is affecting us in a wrongs way, assuming everyone is free and ready to talk to us, whereas people need their own space and calm to get through this time as well. This connectivity is causing disturbance too.
| Newer Developments|| |
There are newer research emerging for the use of social media to see the impact emotionally, financially, and at a larger scale of such pandemics that have now arisen in the modern world and era. Some studies indicate that, in countries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, social media were used to evaluate the impact on the economy and businesses. Scientists have proposed a “real-time” technique that has undergone successful trials during three global natural disasters. It is claimed that this technique could be used to dependably predict the economic impact of the current pandemic. Needless to say this is still a work in progress.
As times and trends are changing, we however must acknowledge the importance of social media for spreading information. A public health report on Minneapolis's response to the 1918 flu shows that critical information regarding the virus was primarily shared through postal workers, boy scouts, and teachers. It does indeed help to have modern ways to go forward with times.
However, we still cannot deny how there is both a bright and a dark side of this social media usage for the pandemic.
The Director General of the WHO Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called this the fight against “trolls and conspiracy theories.” According to him, “We're not just fighting an epidemic; we're fighting an infodemic.” Misinformation causes confusion and spreads fear, thereby hampering the response to the outbreak. “Misinformation on the coronavirus might be the most contagious thing about it,” he says. This (mis) infodemic interferes with our response to the pandemic and increases the confusion within the minds of individuals about which source of information is reliable; it creates fear and panic because of unverified, distorted or fake news, and inflated claims and may encourage paranoia together with intolerant and racist forms of digital vigilantism and scapegoating.
Soon after the identification of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in China, fake news and conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus were spread through social media all over the planet. It was claimed that the virus was engineered as a bioterrorism agent in a laboratory at the Wuhan institute of Virology or that the symptoms are actually caused by the 5G mobile network. The latter rumor resulted in vandalism at some 5G sites. In addition, to profit from the fear of gullible people, many listings on Amazon promote fake COVID-19 cures.
| Conclusion|| |
Social media due to its wide reach can greatly assist the public health response, for example, during massive community-wide quarantine. It is particularly important to use social media wisely as social media provide an opportunity to communicate the reasons for quarantine, offer encouragement, support, and realistic suggestion to forestall rumors and panic. The bottom line is to strike a balance between the various resources available at our disposal and to still maintain the sanctity of an intelligent human race by the utilization of social media appropriately in these times difficult for all.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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