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COVID-19: Infodemic spreads faster than pandemic

Misinformation on COVID-19 on social media makes it difficult to find reliable resources, says social media specialist

Faruk Zorlu  | 31.03.2020 - Update : 31.03.2020
COVID-19: Infodemic spreads faster than pandemic


While scientists around the world try their best to find a remedy for the coronavirus, infodemic that threatens our planet by words becomes more dangerous than coronavirus pandemic. 

A term coined by the World Health Organization to describe spreads of disinformation on the virus, Infodemic makes it difficult for people to find reliable resources to obtain clear info by social media as people are encountering a lot of coronavirus related material on social media, " Deniz Unay, a social media specialist, told Anadolu Agency.

Therefore, obtaining information via the Internet and social media tools without checking whether it is correct or not affects negatively people's psychology, daily lives, and behaviors, Unay added.

The virus, also known as COVID-19, which emerged in Wuhan, China last December, has spread to at least 178 countries and regions around the globe, with nearly 38,000 deaths worldwide.

Technology addiction 

Unfortunately, in this period, millions of people who were called to stay at home to curb the spread of the virus across the world, are also exposed to some problems caused by technology addiction, social media specialist said.

There are over 3 billion posts and over 100 billion interactions on #covid19, #coronavirus and similar hashtags, Deniz Unay said.

Unay went on to say: "So, perhaps for the first time in history, we see that humanity has been exposed to heavy interaction on a single subject in dozens of different languages and on many platforms."

Additionally, spending an exorbitant amount of time on electronics gradually increases the danger of nomophobia, which is a term to describe people who can't escape the phone, he underlined.

Psychological Effects

Speaking on the psychological effects of disinformation on social media, Deniz Unay said: "Misleading posts about cleaning, hygiene, disinfection, and food are easily shared on social media. Therefore, people should only pay attention to their basic needs during their stay at home.

“The use of chemical cleaning products and disinfectants has increased with the increasing cleaning and hygiene obsession. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is increasingly observed among people because of exaggeration of the need for cleaning,” social media specialist said.

Also, "Increasing use of masks and gloves and prominence of social isolation directly affect trust among people and their psychology negatively. This turns into a strange situation that sometimes makes people feel like they are living in a horror movie," Unay stressed.

Meanwhile, “Anxiety and depression caused by thoughts brought about by the fear of being infected or vector are increasingly threatening people.

“Disaster scenarios caused by ignorance and increasing uncertainty raise the level of fear in peoples' minds,” he added.

Additionally, staying home, restricted mobility and freedom, limited sociability, and decreased communication would mean increased social and physical distance with loved ones, relatives, family, and spouse.

Along with the decrease in physical contact, the inability to meet our need to touch and hug could make people more depressed and angry.”

"An unexpected job loss could cause economic difficulties and concerns for the future. Fear and anxiety disorders brought about by uncertainty could lead us to a more unstable mood," he noted.

What Should We Do?

Giving some advice on effective usage of social media to get clear info, Unay said people should keep themselves updated via reliable sources and especially with the information provided by the official institutions and organs of governments.

"Otherwise, people can be led to a more worried and anxious situation with false information accuracy of which they cannot verify," Unay stressed.

"We can read books or listen to audiobooks to avoid technology addiction during the stay at home.

"We should try to overcome this difficult period more comfortably, stress-free and smoothly with the whole family with the help of different games or recreational activities," he underlined.

The number of coronavirus cases worldwide crossed the 788,000 according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

More than 166,000 people diagnosed with the virus have so far recovered globally.

Many countries have restricted flights from the worst-affected countries and imposed lockdowns as the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic and Europe its new epicenter.

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