In a lockdown or a curfew like situation, what do people commonly rely on, for updates? If the first thought in your mind is News Channels, , you’re deeply mistaken. With hours of idleness in hand, all the major part of the population does is procrastinate. And what better way to procrastinate than Social Media? A study shows a massive 87% increase in social media usage amid the present lockdown.
With every other person from the community having a significant amount of “followers”, and having unguided access so as to post whatsoever they wish to, this Social Media that seems harmless mode of communication and fun to many, may act as the biggest curse to mankind. One may ponder so as to why? In the times of a pandemic, fear, leading to widespread panic, can worsen the situation multiple folds. And “What causes unwanted fear, one may ask?
False Information is news, stories or hoaxes created to deliberately (sometimes even without realising the consequences) misinform or deceive readers and thus creating panic.
“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
One of the major observable effects of widespread panic is Panic Buying. People start buying large quantities of a particular commodity or product due to sudden fears of a forthcoming shortage.
Another effect is people sorting to untrue, exaggerated and dubious medical claims and hoaxes which they see on Social Media. People don’t check facts behind these claims and hence start believing all the wrong information. A lot many times these are backed by the strong beliefs and faiths that the communities have been carrying for ages, some right -some wrong.
According to an article by The Guardian, UK Anti-Fake News Unit deals with up to 10 false Coronavirus articles a day. One can only imagine the scale of such articles and the harm they cause.
Despite of the above points Social Media has proven to be a double edged sword. It’s both – a blessing and a curse.
A blessing in the form of a platform for Global Communication. Pandemics require co-ordinated global response strategies. People across the globe are able to communicate with each other. The people in the affected areas are able to help out those who are not yet a part of these areas; doing so by preventing them from making the same mistakes they did. When a cure isn’t known, these precautions are the only ray of hope in these dark times.
Social Media also a huge role in spreading information such as the people getting to know the requirement of Social Distancing and implementing it.
People are starting to understand the need to implement quarantine measures and curfew in the cities.
And how can we forget its main advantage for all the procrastinators out there? ENTERTAINMENT. How could we ever survive isolation without social media?
Not only this, Social Media has proved to be a platform where a good initiative can be organised and scaled up. People have and are continuing to co-ordinate donations in order to help the needy in these dark times.
To sum it up, we the people need to be more responsible when we decide to share or when we receive information to scrutinise it well and check its validation. We need the check if there are any facts backing the claim of such posts and thoroughly research if it is actually true? We need to do this so as to prevent worsening of the situation that we are already in.
What is called for is the right balance of free speech and responsible conduct till the time we do not have well drafted policies and mechanisms that address the digital creation and spread of misinformation about disease outbreaks. Let’s decide not to create an infodemic of the Pandemic that we are all struggling to come out of, as winners.