Communicating Online in the Wake of an “Infodemic”: How We Can Avoid Hazardous Misinformation and Practice Better Mental Health

Communicating Online in the Wake of an “Infodemic”: How We Can Avoid Hazardous Misinformation and Practice Better Mental Health

 

Gen Z’s and Millenials are at battle with a virus unlike anything they have seen before. The middle-aged and elderly are also stunned by its spreading, especially because they are more vulnerable than the former. On an international scale, we are all scared about what is happening — and social media is not helping.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also refers to the coronavirus pandemic as an ‘infodemic’ — hazardous misinformation and fake news is disseminating across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Facebook is attempting to block these posts and Twitter is beginning to mark these fake accounts as spam, but that does not halt content from being posted in private groups and direct messages. Youtube is also a host, featuring fake accounts that offer false cures for the virus. 

With the amount of misinformation online, social media users, including myself, are confused about what is true and what is false. (Here’s an example from one of my favorite Instagram bloggers, Jenette Ogden, that sums up my feelings about my current social media feed well). The past few days I’ve been thinking about how I can be more aware of fake coronavirus news, share factual content and control my overall mental health. This is a short list of four tips I’ve been practicing that have made me feel better, and I hope will make you feel better, too. 

1. Unfollow or mute accounts that are making you upset

This is a scary time and we need to protect ourselves. This also means that we do not need to upset ourselves further by reading or viewing content that inflicts anxiety upon us. If someone you follow on social media is frequently posting such content, mute them for the time being. You should not sacrifice your own mental health during a pandemic. 

2. Follow and share information from reliable sources, like WHO and CDC 

These are the definitive sources for all news related to the coronavirus. That being said, these are the only fully trusted sources for information. As a responsible communicator online, promoting and sharing content from these organizations better informs your social media circle and the general public. Additionally. limit your time watching the news and be mindful of where you are getting your “news” from. Just because a celebrity or social media friend shares something does not mean it is credible.

3. Stay connected with the news, but also spend time away from it

The past few weeks I have remained glued to my phone. As I read certain headlines or posts, I can feel my chest tightening. I am now choosing to limit my overall time on my social accounts — this has helped my state of mind tremendously. I am still staying informed and following the news, but I am mindful of where I retrieve it from and who is disseminating it.

4. Turn off your phone and do something you really enjoy

For a lot of us, quarantining has opened a window of free-time that never fit our previous schedules. Ironically, this time is an opportunity to take up something new. Painting with Bob Ross, learning to playing an instrument, taking one of the free ivy-league online courses … there is an infinite list of things you can do, and even if you do not take up a new activity, spend time — whether IRL or online — with your loved ones. Lonely days feel less lonely when you connect with the people who matter to you most.

Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, stay at home but also only follow reliable information, limit your time online, call a loved-one and challenge yourself to try something new. 

To staying well and keeping safe,
Carter

Written By: Carter Smith
4/2/2020

 

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