Coronavirus’s pandemic declaration caused everyone to push the panic button across the world. Some started panic buying supplies even before the pandemic hit their state, divulging how weak our chain of supply is. Several Communities also took initiatives to help numerous citizens in isolated areas with the help of social media such as creating groups of users on platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp, to coordinate the activities.
A new term has been invented, ‘Groupsourcing’ similar to Outsourcing, where groups are created around users’ needs by other users instead of being controlled centrally. However, there were some who used these platforms to spread fake news and pieces of information – with or without intentions. Such revelations are just an example of how social media has impacted the lives of citizens in such times – both for good and for ill reasons.
Understanding the influence of Social Media
Approximately 56% of the world’s population or 4.1 billion people had access to the internet by the end of 2019, according to a report by the international telecommunication union. India has become the 2nd largest country in the global market with over 560 million users having access to the internet. With 50.44% of Social media penetration, India is one big Socially influenced country.
The most used and popular social media websites around India are Facebook and Youtube, with the highest number of users on Facebook in the world. Practically everyone in the country is equipped with some form of social media within either their smartphone or on laptops. Hence, the ‘panic’ and ‘fake news’, as well as ‘news’ from trusted sources, spread faster than the COVID-19 itself.
Use of social media for health-related information
At such times, when there’s no proper cure available for Coronavirus, social media has become a major platform to share and spread public healthcare awareness and guidelines on how not to get affected by CoV physically and mentally. The ministry of health and family welfare department of India has even developed a tool named “Arogyasetu” that links users of the app across India to critical healthcare services. The CDC of America also has an active page on Facebook and Twitter that allows the governing bodies to share a large number of short messages as well as long informative details about COVID-19 in less period. These organizations also keep track of the tweets and FB posts that can signal any possible outbreak within the country, allowing them to share relevant information to address the issue.
The optimistic view – Social media can prove to be a useful tool for citizens across the world as most of us are in a lockdown state and at the same time isolated from one another. The conversation around pandemic can help us to steer through this pandemic.
Apart from news sharing, Social Media also helps in taking down the mental pressure by allowing us to communicate with our loved ones and friends. Youtube and Facebook have emerged as the best source of entertainment also in India and as per google reports, 80% of the total Indian population on the internet have used Youtube during the lockdown.
The Negative Impact – Spread of Panic and Unnecessary Rumors
According to WhatsApp University Graduates, “Coronavirus was supposed to die in India because of India’s Climate conditions.”
This was the initial information that took rounds in India when the whole world was researching the virus. There is no extent to false news and rumors spread through Social media. Furthermore, with a 50.44% penetration rate, the news traveled across the country or even globally like the wildfire in Australia. The same wildfire that was believed to be spread for political reasons and not because of climate change.
There are both – the perks as well as the consequences of using excess social media. It still is used to share some kind of misinformation. Social media platforms are often seen encouraging users to share their views freely which sometimes leads to the generation of rumors and misinformation and still, there are no guidelines or accountability to check what is said.
A lot of misinformation as well as correct information about CoV has been generated through various channels of Social media. Before channeling any piece of information around a pandemic, users need to verify the same with the government’s official websites and platforms available on social media. The Global Government is fighting the pandemic on two fronts – one with the virus itself and the other with the misinformation. There are several lessons learned from this pandemic that will serve as a representation for future pandemics.
Noor Moore is a social media application developer for a leading company Social Engine India, a company that provides Social Network Services. He/She has been associated with the company since 2014 and is responsible for delivering the best services in her domain. Developing aside, She is very much interested in writing and sharing views on social media development while keeping track of what’s trending in the market.