We live in a world that is dominated by social media and in a culture that puts too much trust in its most-followed users. It is more obvious now — while the globe is battling COVID-19 — than ever before just how dependent we are on “reliable news sources” like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Popular media news sources and social media apps pride themselves on promoting fear and mass panic over factual information, and American consumers — myself included — just eat it up. The news leads us to flock to our local grocery stores, buying everything in sight. We clean every surface in our homes and are careful of who we touch. We refresh our phones to see the next best coronavirus meme and search for that viral video of two women fighting over the last package of toilet paper.
And for what? For group overreaction? For the fear of leaving our front porches? For running to social media instead of accurate news reports for the latest updates on the coronavirus crisis? It is time that we regain perspective on the pandemic that has sent many of us back to our hometowns with no return to Grounds in the foreseeable future — without social media.
For the majority of our official spring break, I scrolled on my phone before going to bed — a horrible habit, I know — and read post after post about the coronavirus. The casual jokes that irritated me so much on Grounds — “See you after break! Try not to catch coronavirus, ha!” — were morphing into viral videos of college students in self-quarantine and notifications of public school closings all over the country. I saw my peers posting amazing pictures of Barcelona and Madrid simultaneously as I watched as Spain went under a Level 3 travel advisory due to its rapidly rising rate of infection while they were there.
It is nearly impossible to get any objective news from social media, and even popular newscasts like ABC World News spend 28 minutes of 30-minute segments discussing COVID-19. While I understand how important and world-shaking this virus is, I know that we as a public deserve better than news that promotes fear over fact.
So, how can we get to the facts? Do we need to completely detach from social media and delete the apps from our phones?
No — at least, I really do not think so. My search for clear vision on the subject of coronavirus started where most glasses-wearers do — cleaning my lenses. I tried, and am still trying, to cleanse my feed of fake news spreaders and people I follow that are contributing to the fear-mongering and negativity that social media thrives on.
And when I inevitably come across coronavirus-centered posts on my feeds, if it is not significant news or something worth spending time on, I keep scrolling. The easiest way to get to the facts when we are overwhelmed by the amount of people talking about a topic like coronavirus is to go to reliable sources like the World Health Organization, The New York Times’ Coronavirus Live Updates page and the Centers for Disease Control’s “Share Facts, Not Fear” factsheet for the most up-to-date information — instead of typing “coronavirus” in a social media service’s search bar.
The second most important aspect of my struggle to regain perspective has been a mental cleanse. It is really easy at this point in time to focus on the negative that graces our social media feeds, putting on invisible blinders that block out the positive things in our periphery.
I am not trying to come across as a “look for the bright side,” annoyingly optimistic person when I say this, but we all need to focus on the positive. Breathing in the tragedy that is being offered to us on popular media all day really does change your outlook on the world. I know this from my own personal experience and from the way I see social media affecting my family and friends.
So, I want to speed up your journey to regaining perspective on where the world is at right now by gathering some of the positives I have found in one place.
We are learning that public spaces like schools, museums and movie theaters can and should continue to be regularly sanitized.
We are finding that jobs that “could not be done remotely” actually can be done from home.
We are being more careful of what we touch, how often we wash our hands and are building better hygiene habits as a whole society.
The University is taking progressive steps towards getting students home, and students are working together, creating mutual aid networks and circulating lists of resources to assist those who must stay.
We are getting more time to take a breath and work on ourselves as we stay at home to protect ourselves and those in our communities who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus.
In listing just a few of the positives, I am not trying to diminish the disastrous effects of the coronavirus. My goal is to highlight examples of humans coming together to support each other — at a distance, of course.
Continuing to use social media in times like these is not a bad choice or a wrong choice. But in a few short weeks, I have seen how social media’s opinion on the coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted my mood and warped my perspective of the disease and its global effects.
So, please, continue to go on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, if you want — I probably will in a few days too. But look for, double-tap and share the stories of people buying and delivering groceries to their elderly neighbors and athletes donating money to cover the salaries of arena workers who will not be working just as much, if not more than, the tragedies that are in everyone’s immediate vision and no one’s best interests.
Emma Keller is a Life Columnist at The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at email@example.com.