Many people looked to social media for information and direction after the coronavirus illness (COVID-19) outbreak. There are advantages and disadvantages to this practice. These range from the propagation of false information to the crucial role social media has played in disseminating factual information and providing education on mental health. This essay examines both the drawbacks and the advantages, taking into account who may be more likely to utilize social media and, consequently, be impacted by the information shared on digital platforms, which are now an essential part of our everyday lives.
Worldwide, the novel coronavirus has spread SARS-CoV-2 or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus. The mortality rate associated with the ensuing Covid-19 pandemic has reached proportions of between 2% and 3% worldwide since its declaration as a public health emergency of international concern by the WHO in March 2020 — higher than that of the Spanish Influenza (H1N1) that occurred early in the twentieth century. Many people used social media to gather information and support after the disaster as well as to help them deal with the emotional toll.
What drawbacks are there with social media and COVID-19?
Information is distributed and connections are maintained through the use of social media and other digital channels. However, it has been determined that the transmission of false information on social media and other digital platforms poses an even greater risk to public health than the virus itself. By weakening public confidence and detracting from efforts to stop the epidemic’s spread, the issue of false information contributes to hindering the worldwide response to the pandemic.
The likelihood of mental illness has increased due to the pervasiveness of gloomy information regarding COVID-19 and its linked fatalities across newsfeeds on social media. It’s normal for people to use social media while they’re feeling anxious. And while using social media platforms like Facebook, for instance, users may be able to momentarily escape their unpleasant emotions, any benefits are known to be connected to addictive behaviors.
The benefits of using social media to relieve mental stress might work against you if you use it excessively; excessive use can put your mental health at risk. According to the results, there may be a link between emotional trauma and social media use (Abbas, et al. 2021).
COVID-19 with social media: Is there a benefit?
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a mental health crisis on a global scale. Expelling fear and uncertainty—factors that promote stress and mental illness—requires the administration and transmission of precise information about the virus. Easy access to information is a key benefit of social media and other digital platforms.
There are many opportunities for education because of this simplicity of access. By providing such essential information, the pandemic’s effects on mental health may be lessened. Smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices are readily available in the event of a medical emergency, and many people are now more inclined to resort to social media platforms’ newsfeeds than to more conventional media sources.
These platforms not only provide health information, but also a means of coping and a channel for peer support. An emotional outlet like this has been shown to be crucial in times of medical emergency. But who is most likely to use these sources and platforms?
Social media, Generation Z, and Millennials
Social media is widely used by young people. After contracting SARS-CoV-2, millennials and members of Generation Z are less likely to experience catastrophic consequences. Compared to any other group, members of these groups are also more likely to use social media, routinely using an average of 5 digital platforms every day, including TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and We Chat.
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The WHO conducted a global study on the application of digital technologies during a health emergency in cooperation with Wunderman Thompson, the University of Melbourne, and Pollfish. The study included about 23, 500 people from 24 countries and five continents, ranging in age from 18 to 40. The purpose of the study was to learn more about the information-seeking habits of this cohort, the sources they consider reliable, and their knowledge of issues like false news and other issues.
Contrary to popular belief, the study’s key findings revealed that scientific news and material were regarded to be more shareable than personal information, photographs, other articles, and other types of information that could be worrisome in nature.
The results go counter to the notion that humorous, enjoyable, and emotive content is more likely to be shared. Investigators also discovered that users had a high level of awareness of the issue of false news and believed they were qualified to identify it.
The World Health Organization (WHO), academic institutions, and other official health bodies can use social media in a positive and influential way to allay public concerns and to disseminate accurate medical information to the general public as part of efforts to combat the spread of misinformation and its unfavorable consequences for potentially curtailing measures to help control the spread of infection. In underdeveloped nations, these policies are particularly beneficial.
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In the face of historically significant worldwide crises like the COVID-19 epidemic, digital technologies present us with both benefits and drawbacks. We can navigate the use of these platforms in a constructive and useful way going forward by becoming more aware of the possible threats that social media may present.