The Role of Social Media During the Pandemic
Social media has undoubtedly been on the rise throughout the past decade. It seems as though the world is constantly posting, tweeting, scrolling, and updating their socials. It has made its way into nearly everyone’s life, especially today’s youth. However, many see social media as a negative influence that creates a manipulative and toxic environment, subjecting teenagers to cyberbullying, hate, and unhealthy ideals. While these negative aspects are evident and require us to approach social media extremely carefully, there are also many positives to this ever-growing online world.
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The global outbreak of COVID-19 has been the first pandemic in history where we have access to a wide range of technology and media. Consequently, social media has held an important role throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In this article, we will discover the ways in which social media has a huge impact on life amidst a pandemic, ranging from advantages and disadvantages to the expected and the unexpected, and finally, how we can continue to use it for good!
It helps us stay informed
At the click of a button, a swipe of a screen, or the launch of an app, we have access to boundless information regarding current events. Since the beginning of quarantine, social media has allowed us to stay updated on case numbers, high-risk areas, public health advisories, and more. This information helps us keep ourselves, our communities, our country, and the world safe.
With endless information being shared through social media, it can inevitably also become a source of misinformation. The biggest issue with misinformation is that it can be spread extremely quickly, which can create misleading assumptions, unnecessary stress, and potentially harmful consequences. This highlights the importance of distinguishing between trustworthy and untrustworthy sources, as well as fact-checking the information you receive.
For more information on how you can tackle misinformation, visit the World Health Organization’s guide on reporting misinformation online.
It keeps us connected
Social media has allowed for connection during a time of loneliness and fear. Throughout the months of quarantine, we have stayed updated on one another’s lives by posting on Instagram, updating a Facebook status, sending Snapchats to a friend, or sending messages to loved ones. Whether you are connecting with a friend in quarantine or someone halfway across the world, social media gives us the ability to keep in touch with others amidst a global lockdown.
Although you may not realize it at first, social media has also helped to bridge a world of strangers. Do you remember the beginning of quarantine, when a viral TikTok trend engulfed the internet? Dalgona coffee—you’ve surely tried making it at least once, right? From countless TikTok trends and quarantine haircuts to the popular Chloe Ting workouts, people connected with one another through shared experiences. At a time when loneliness, boredom, and anxiety enveloped the world, social media granted people a connection with strangers through something as simple as a cup of whipped coffee.
It gives us a voice
Not only does social media allow people to share stories, opinions, and advice, but it also allows them to express what they believe in. Throughout this year, social media platforms have allowed millions to make their voices heard, spark change, and initiate open conversation. During quarantine, a surge in activism brought many important issues to light, such as the issue of police brutality and systemic racism unveiled with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Social media has also helped to educate people on issues regarding the pandemic, politics and the upcoming elections, and more.
Furthermore, social media gives people a platform to spread positivity and share encouraging messages during a time of uncertainty. With frightening and tragic news flooding the stations and with the future seeming so uncertain, many are struggling when it comes to mental health. Social media has allowed people to share struggles, successes, advice, and messages of encouragement. It also provides a means for people to check in with loved ones and offer support to those in need of it.
It reaches a large audience
Lastly, we will discuss how one of the greatest aspects of social media has played a huge role during the pandemic—its ability to reach millions of people. Since the lockdown, many stores and businesses have shut their doors, public services and educational institutions have closed, and fundraisers and events have been postponed or cancelled. In many cases, however, businesses have continued online marketing, restaurants have offered takeout services through online platforms, schools have kept their students updated through social pages, and fundraisers have been shifted to virtual events—all through the use of social media platforms.
Recently, we have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases among young people. It is the younger population that is now leading infection rates. Shana MacDonald, a communications professor at the University of Waterloo, tells Global News that social media education and appeals are a “missed opportunity” when it comes to reaching a younger audience. “It’s the quickest and easiest way to disseminate the information because that’s where their attention is going” (Global News). Many videos, infographics, educational links, and Instagram posts have been shared in an attempt to remind youth of safe and healthy practices. However, a new focus has come into play—TikTok. TikTok is currently the fastest growing social media app, gaining extreme popularity from the younger generations. Through apps like Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and the viral TikTok, the government and health officials can utilize social media to convey important messages to the younger population.
Social media has had an immense impact on life during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no doubt that it will continue to be a great tool to stay informed and updated, maintain connections with others, provide platforms to speak on important topics, and allow messages to be shared with millions across the city, country, and world. We must, however, be mindful and smart when using social media, especially to distinguish between positive and negative usage. As the world continues to emerge from lockdown and adjust to life under a new normal, we must remember the wonderful aspects of social media, and strive to always use it for good!
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Article author: Victoria Huang
Article editors: Sherilyn Wen, Stephanie Sahadeo