COVID – 19: The Role of Social Media in its Awareness

COVID – 19: The Role of Social Media in its Awareness

Which ever Social networking site I went, I was only finding information and News about COVID 19. Why is it so?

It is because, Nowadays, social media such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, have become the main source of information.

Social Media is a perfect mean to keep individuals and communities linked even though physically separated. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is out of control across the globe and there seems to be no end in sight. It started in China in December 2019 and has developed into a global pandemic. Social media is one of the best ways to spread the news. If it’s COVID-19 news or national news, social media takes the message where it’s going to need to. Not only are we learning the latest news by the help of social media, but are also using them for updates. Social media educated us about the clinical manifestations of COVID-19, in turn, saving many lives. Another enormous thing that spreads across social media is safety tips, specifically one term “social distancing”.

WHAT IS SOCIAL DISTANCING?

Social Distancing

According to the Ministry of health and family welfare of the Government of India social distancing is defined as a non-pharmaceutical infection prevention and control intervention implemented to avoid/decrease contact between those who are infected with a disease-causing pathogen and those who are not, to stop or slow down the rate and extent of disease transmission in a community. This eventually leads to a decrease in spread, morbidity and mortality due to the disease.

COVID-19 has been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a public health emergency of international concern. The COVID-19 has already affected 196 countries and territories worldwide and has thus become an emerging pandemic. According to WHO, more than 7,690,708 people worldwide have already been affected by the outrageous virus, causing fatality to over 427,630 people till the 14th of Jun 2020. According to covid19india.org, as of 14th of Jun 2020, 3,32,901 cases of COVID-19 has been confirmed and 9,520 deaths have occurred in India. The COVID-19 outbreak affects all segments of the population. It is especially harmful to members of those social groups in the most vulnerable circumstances. Governments, public health authorities and digital corporations need to encourage digital literacy. COVID-19 has impacted many areas:

  • The travel restrictions placed by different countries have turned it into a story of tourism and transport.
  • The economic effect on the stock market in the most affected countries turned it into a financial and business story.
  • The postponement of the cancellation of the Olympics in Tokyo 2020 made this a sporting story.

WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA?

According to Merriam Webster, social media is defined as forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos). Social media refers to websites and applications designed to enable people to exchange content in a fast and effective manner. Social networking is a generic term for websites and applications. It concentrates on communication, feedback from the audience, engagement, sharing of information, and collaboration. Many people will use social media to keep in contact and connect with friends and relatives. Many businesses would use social media as a way to advertise their goods and promote them.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF SOCIAL MEDIA

  • Social networks: Connect with people all over the world
  • Media sharing networks: Share photos, videos, and other forms of media
  • Discussion forums: Share news, ideas and discuss any topic or issue with people around the world
  • Bookmarking and content curation networks: Discover, save, and share new content related to any topic or issue
  • Consumer review networks: Find and review businesses or restaurants etc
  • Blogging and publishing networks: Publish content (ebooks, articles, essays etc) online
  • Interest-based networks: Share interests and hobbies with people all over the world
  • Social shopping networks: Shop online
  • Sharing economy networks: Trade goods, services and elements
  • Anonymous social networks: Communicate anonymously with persons all over the world

ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS DURING THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has created a global health crisis that has had a significant effect on us. Social media plays a significant part in building awareness because it provides many organizations in the present world with the best mode of communication. So, This includes the use, among other broadcasting methods, of social networks such as Televisions, Facebook, websites. Social media creates an ideal social atmosphere where people can connect and share their ideas. Communication in social media encompasses a wide area because the content is open to other people. The information posted will spread over a short period to a lot of people.  People of all age use the Internet which is one of the major communication platforms which replaced television advertisement, magazine and newspaper advertisement because of its restricted scope and lack of standardization. Social Media networks play the following roles during the COVID – 19 pandemics:

  • Social media acts as a source of Information and Misinformation
  • It creates an impact on public response to the outbreak
  • It acts as a marketing platform
  • An effective way to add positivity to frightening times

SOCIAL MEDIA: A SOURCE OF INFORMATION AND MISINFORMATION

Social Media Source of misinformation

In the face of a worldwide crisis, we have never had more real-time knowledge available at our fingertips. This knowledge helps to keep us safe, giving a clearer view of what’s happening and how it could affect us. However, social media can also spread falsehoods, including miracle prevention steps, conspiracy theories and more. It is vitally important to find reliable sources of knowledge about COVID-19. The propagation of misinformation is a pressing problem with new, online social media. Rumours are yet another type of misinformation. One common conspiracy theory is that the virus had been created by China. A rumour circulated that work into bioweapons in a Wuhan laboratory contributed to COVID-19 genetic engineering that was published afterwards. Such reports may also have jeopardized Western scientists working relationship with their Chinese counterparts pursuing a COVID-19 vaccine.  

Other common types of misinformation include false, distorted, and questionable medical claims and hoaxes. Various unproven natural and traditional remedies were offered as cures for both Ebola and COVID-19. Racist content circulating across social media can reinforce biases and prejudices that already exist. The COVID-19 pandemic is repeating the xenophobic reactions that erupted during the 2003 SARS outbreak in Toronto, amongst other cities.

A further challenge was combating stigma in the era of social media. Early in the COVID-19 outbreak, several sources referred to the virus as ‘Wuhan virus’. Unfortunately, this tends to stigmatize people from that area and creates an association with those of a certain ethnicity. To ensure the information is reliable, the golden rule is to verify sources to ensure:

  • The information obtained from the sources is trustworthy
  • The information transmits from the source.

SOCIAL MEDIA: AN INFLUENCE ON PUBLIC RESPONSE TO THE OUTBREAK

Billions of people are free to express their views about COVID-19 publicly through different social networks. We’ve seen people, groups and companies using social media over the last few weeks to spread awareness of COVID-19. This crisis highlights social media’s specific strengths in how they can be used for communication and emotional support. People around the world reach out to each other through social media to make sense of what’s going on.

Social media users are constantly asking for social distancing, from friends and relatives to celebrities and governments. There are a lot of funny videos on how people manage the lockdown creatively. The Facebook community groups that coordinate entertainment and practical support to help neighbours. The rapid growth of apps and features that allow multiple people to talk and video sessions live. The HEC Paris described social media in its core and at its best. Many people over-bought household goods, sanitization items, and food, believing that necessities will no longer be available. This over-acquisition has become so popular that users of social media have coined a term to describe it: panic buying. Panic buying is addressed on social media, in two distinct ways:

  • people posting about their panic buying, displaying pictures of carts loaded with toilet paper, water bottles, and frozen meals
  • people sharing photos of empty shelves or carts from other people as a way to ridicule suspected panic buyers

SOCIAL MEDIA: A MARKETING PLATFORM

For several brands, the COVID-19 outbreak poses a defining moment in how they want to market their product. Companies give their consumers free tools to handle the crisis. For example, several academic publishers have made the content available online for free to help distance learning. Marketing depends heavily on empathy. Unfortunately, there are people selling goods of the snake oil type. Related to social distancing and quarantining, common hashtags include # social distancing, # quarantineandchill, and # mypandemicsurvivalplan. Many companies provide powerful and empathetic answers to COVID-19.

Brands currently have the primary responsibility of ensuring the health and well-being of their staff and consumers. Instead of self-glorifying brand posts, they would be forced to accept social media’s communal logic during the COVID-19 crisis. Brands that can convey messages and participate in discussions that are important because they offer accurate knowledge. For example, streaming services are providing entertainment for those bored at home. Markets and restaurants with delivery systems can provide those unable to go out with food and groceries safely. Online courses are delivered at discounted rates and for free.

SOCIAL MEDIA: AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO ADD POSITIVITY TO FRIGHTENING TIMES

The epidemic of COVID-19 is far-reaching in cases that spread worldwide. Currently, the implementation of policies and frameworks that tackle digital production and dissemination of misinformation about disease outbreaks is imperative. There is no ideal social media platform where disinformation and fear have been present, there has also been an abundance of valuable, life-saving information. Listed below are some of how social media made a positive impact during COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Fundraisers coordinated and distributed on social services collect funds for the needy
  • People post photos and videos so that they can share their experiences

COVID-19 has placed many people in difficult circumstances, especially the elderly, those with disabilities, working parents who are losing child care and those who are losing their jobs. Communities are coming together to assist groups and people by posting fundraisers on social media with large audiences. People often take to social media to provide help in any possible way, such as picking up grocery stores for individuals who are unable to leave home or sharing tips about how to assist local companies struggling to pay their workers. Social media posts should be user-centric and not producer-centric and the message remains consistent from one person to another: you’re not alone in this, there are silver linings to enjoy, and it’s okay to experience it in any number of ways.

CONCLUSION

The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) is running rampant across the globe and no end seems to be in sight. Social media is one of the best ways to share news today. It also taught us about COVID-19’s clinical manifestations, and the concept “social distancing”. Social networking refers to websites and applications which are designed to enable people to quickly and effectively share information. Many people will use social media to keep in contact with friends and family while others will use social media to communicate with various communities. Social sharing, media sharing, discussion forums, bookmarking and curation of content, common review, blogging and publishing, interest-based, social shopping, sharing economy and anonymous are the different forms of social media networks.

Communication in social media covers a wide area as the content is accessible to everyone and it is the strongest means of communication for many organisations in the present world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the key roles performed by social networking networks: it acts as a source of knowledge and disinformation, it has an effect on public reaction to the outbreak, it acts as a messaging tool, an efficient way to bring positivity to periods of fear. In this challenging time of COVID-19, social media is both a boon as well as a bane. So, it is our responsibility to avoid the spread of false messages or news relevant to this pandemic and to obtain and distribute only legitimate and checked sources of knowledge.

So, When a person writes an article or blog about this pandemic, he/she must ensure that the sources used are accurate, and must cite the source from which the information is obtained.

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