The Impact of Social Media during the COVID-19 Pandemic
August 23, 2020Isabella Georgia Ioannou
The beginning of the year 2020, was a new way of life for the whole world and had a deep impact on the way we perceive our everyday lives. In the first few months of 2020, news reports and articles about coronavirus (COVID-19) were rapidly published and shared within social media platforms. The COVID-19 pandemic had been referred to as the first social media infodemic meaning an informal method of information. However, most importantly social media platforms are a great way for individuals to communicate and remain connected although physically separated during a pandemic.
Back in the 1918 flu pandemic, which had infected around a third of the world’s population people did not have access to such platforms or method of communication. Whereas, currently living in the 21st century and in a world of advanced technology news and information are now shared immediately. Throughout the 1918 pandemic people were informed by postal workers. Imagine learning about todays COVID-19 with a knock on your door. Due to the development of social media networking sites currently today, not only are we constantly reading the latest news and updates however we are also using platforms (i.e. Facebook) to provide and fulfil personal and business needs. Employees and customers have been supported like never before while offering employees the opportunity to secure their job while working from home and customers to have all their essentials and luxuries while shopping online.
It is apparent that 2020 has been the first year for real-time information available at our fingertips in the difficult situation of a worldwide event. Although the current pandemic may have caused panic and fear, with the use of social media platforms a lot of information has helped individuals feel safe as they have a continuous update of what is occurring and how they can protect themselves and their loved ones. It is understandable that coming across false news or over exaggerated theories on social media platforms can negatively affect mental health however, finding trusted sources of information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic is definitely crucial.
Social media is the accessible gem during such events especially if it is utilized correctly. The key to making sure information and news received are accurate is by checking original sources that are trustworthy such as World Health Organization. (WHO) In many cases, some people may claim to have understood or learned something from a reliable source however that does not always mean they are relaying the information accurately.
Billions of individuals have freedom of speech and the ability to share their opinions and beliefs on the pandemic across the internet and all social media networks. The beauty is that the world has come together to spread awareness on social media between individuals, organizations and businesses. Just a year back, most of the population had never heard of the term “social distancing” which implies staying at least 2 meters away from others to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Currently, social media users are regularly calling for social distancing between each other and emphasizing the importance of it.
The most important impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on social media is the way many brands and organizations choose to market their products. There have been many businesses providing powerful and empathetic responses towards the pandemic as their focus now is to provide safety and well being to both their customers and employees. For instance, during the period of lockdown and isolation Netflix has been giving some free pass for their platform allowing users to enjoy series and movies with no subscription charge also encouraging people to stay home. Social media platforms have also been advertising delivery services for a range of supermarkets and restaurants all around the world to safely provide groceries and meals especially to the vulnerable groups who are unable to leave the house.
Although social media platforms are not always the most reliable sources of information, there has been an abundance of vital and lifesaving information. Individuals are sharing experiences between each other and standing by each other psychologically.
The most touching part of social media platforms during the pandemic of COVID-19 is that it has brought together many individuals, those with disabilities, working parents who are losing childcare and people who are losing their jobs. Communities with large audiences on social media are coming together to support the world wide population by sharing funds. In addition to this, individuals are also utilizing social media to support in any way they can, for example by picking up groceries for the vulnerable and sharing information on supporting local businesses who are economically struggling through these difficult times. For example, Instagram had adopted a new “Support Small Businesses” sticker that enabled people to easily show their love for businesses in their stories.
Moreover, people quarantined at home during lockdown had shared their free time at home on social media doing activities and encouraging individuals on how to keep themselves occupied. Videos such as yoga and baking have been published within the platform sharing their experiences and remaining positive. The overwhelming support has been huge so far, reminding people that they are not alone.
This pandemic is just the beginning of us understanding social media’s ultimate role. It is the reality case study of how the public and businesses respond to such a difficult world wide event and how it can positively influence the globe.