Coronavirus: from fantasy to reality, where can we get reliable information?

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The World Health Organization has called the new COVID-19 coronavirus a “massive infectious disease,” referring to the abundance of information, true or not, that makes it difficult for people to find reliable sources of guidance when they need it. We are afraid of contracting the virus and the well-being of our families, and we are worried about the health of our children. Fears about the coronavirus have been heightened on social media, just as SARS, MERS and Zika have sparked global panic. Social media groups and comment areas have become ground zero for dialogue, be it in gathering places to prevent the spread of COVID 19, or be it constructive and friendly dialogue. This has allowed disinformation to spread and flourish, creating an environment of heightened insecurity, fueled personally and online by fear and racism. 

Of course, social media allows us to keep up with the news and enable important conversations about COVID-19. But at the same time, it can spread sensationalism, and while the virus continues to spread on social media, Twitter users are resorting to masks of fear. Such conversations remind us that social media provides a window into our collective response to coronavirus outbreaks, and that, for better or worse, it forms our responses in the first place. The 2011 film, directed by Steven Soderbergh, outlined the coronavirus crisis the world is currently facing. Although the film is a hyperbolic disaster movie, with a fictitious virus and a far from deadly coronavirus, the world’s reactions to the crisis are similar. This includes drawing parallels between COVID-19 and the plot of the film and the global reaction to it. In the case of COVID-19, a pandemic of fear of the coronavirus is spreading. Fears of contagion have spread to other countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Seeing or hearing that someone else is afraid makes one afraid, without necessarily knowing what caused the other’s fear. It is also much easier to encourage panic buying than remain calm and report it, and it is also much harder to not to cause panic.

If you turn on a news channel or invariably read about a virus online, you should be selective when using media, but not too selective about what you read. You should widen your horizon continuously. Even though we don’t know much yet, the coronavirus mega thread on r/Askscience is great for the logic and statistics that help keep your health fears in check. Reddit’s r/Anxiety also has some threads, and I found it helpful, as the r/Coronavirus thread offers excellent source of information. The posts are continuously moderated, so there is a really little chance of getting false information. Feel free to rely on these scraps of news to let you know how the coronavirus might affect your daily life. The people at TikTok seem to be very aware of how being their app used to spread panic and disinformation on this issue. Fear arises when people capitalise on the desperate feelings of their fellow human beings and spread hysteria through disinformation. You should think twice about using TikTok in this way. In Iran, a letter from a health official circulated on the social media and a link titled “Learn more about COVID-19″ was placed in a viral video. I think this was a very good idea. Without proper warnings people can disregard public health advices and, for example, continue to buy and hoard masks and ignore recommendations for isolation and quarantine. “It’s completely normal to be scared now” Haley Neidich, a licensed psychotherapist, told CNET. You can hardly be accused of being afraid of a novel coronavirus when the news of COVID-19 is as widespread as the disease itself. As the coronavirus epidemic sweeps through several countries, many people are worried about what the World Health Organization calls a pandemic. Timely, accurate, and high-profile reporting helps Americans understand how to contain a virus that is spreading through measures such as social distancing. The media attention paid to the coronavirus brings a great deal of relief to the coverage of the climate crisis. Climate stories have never been given anywhere near as much attention and urgency in the press. The flagship media, including The Washington Post and The New York Times, have significantly expanded their coverage of climate change. At the heart of the crisis is the impact of global warming on the world’s food, water and energy supplies. Infodemics create fear and panic through unconfirmed rumors and exaggerated claims, increase public confusion about which sources of information to trust and encourage the spread of false information, such as fake news, misinformation and conspiracy theories. We must promote digital literacy, as the impact of social media has spawned an irreversible desire for truth.

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