Coronavirus Outbreak: Social media to social distancing, yet coming together in crisis

Poorna Kulkarni
Wednesday, 18 March 2020

The usual posts on social media platforms are getting replaced by information on the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. A few youngsters tell us about the changes they have seen.

With the entire world fighting coronavirus and a few countries undergoing self quarantine and lockdown, the one thing that is topmost in everyone’s mind is: How soon can we tide over the crisis? This  one goal and one mission has brought the world closer, with people supporting each other and spreading awareness of the novel virus.
     
Recently, legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan wrote a blog on how the crisis has brought the world closer. “... for once the World thinks similar .., philosophers, purists,  optimists, meditative geniuses, creators, musicians, educator of life lessons .. all spoke of ‘One World’ in multiple discourses over multiple years .. failed they did .. .. it took 19, CoVid 19, to bring them together on one platform .. BRAVO !” 

Also, it was heartwarming to see videos of people in Italy singing and playing instruments from their balconies. Despite the quarantine and social distancing, Italians have displayed great courage and camaraderie during this hour of crisis.
 
If you scroll social media platforms, you will find numerous posts spreading awareness of coronavirus. Fancy travel pictures and food stories have been replaced by informative posts. We speak to a few youngsters to know how the nature of posts on social media has undergone an immense  transformation in the past few weeks. 

The bigger  picture 
Shreya Bhagat, a marketing professional, says that there has been a positive change  as social media platforms are being used for which they were primarily created — to allow users to have conversations, share information and create web content.
 
“In the last couple of weeks, users have been putting up posts updating people about COVID-19 cases, educating and informing them about the virus and sharing quick tips on how to stay safe. There is panic around, but people are also understanding the need to protect themselves and those around them. The only drawback is that a lot of misinformation can also spread because we have access to a huge amount of information but we don’t know what is true and false. On social media, I also hope to see and learn about people who have been cured of the virus.”

Shreya Kulkarni, undertaking training in mental health profession, says that like any other burning topic, COVID-19 will be talked about for a while and then suddenly, it will disappear from our conversations. “It’s a good thing that social media is currently focussed on this. An epidemic like COVID-19 shows the need to have a more efficient and robust public health care system. So, we have to look at the bigger picture,” she says. 

Spread positivity 
Recently, Hollywood actor Tom Hanks took to Instagram to write about his recovery from COVID-19. “Hello folks. @ritawilson and I want to thank everyone here Down Under who are taking such good care of us. We have Covid-19 and are in isolation so we do not spread it to anyone else. There are those for whom it could lead to a very serious illness. We are taking it one-day-at-a-time. There are things we can all do to get through this by following the advice of experts and taking care of ourselves and each other, no?” Hanks wrote. Both he and his wife have been released from hospital. 

Positive stories can help us keep calm and cope with the crisis. Aasim Khan, social media strategist from Mumbai, says, “Positive stories help the mind stay positive. That said, we have to be wary of rumours and check if the piece of information is correct or not.”

Ajay Khirdikar, Chartered Accountant, says that people putting up posts on remedies, helpline numbers, designated hospitals where people can go for tests and treatment etc are indeed helpful.
 
Kulkarni makes a valid point by saying that the discussion shouldn’t stop once the situation is under control, the awareness of preventive measures should continue on ground level. 

“Also a little break from the superficial stuff is alright. This is the time to introspect and be more self-aware. I believe this is a humongous opportunity to be caring and compassionate towards each other, animals and the ecosystem. I could actually see that people are concerned about each other’s safety and health which is a positive thing. The streets are not crowded, pollution levels have drastically decreased which is another positive outcome,” says Bhagat. 

Be mindful 
Kulkarni says that people should be mindful when putting out such posts and also exercise sensitivity.  Khirdikar totally seconds the thought and says, “The number of cured cases should equally be put up in the social domain to offset the panic so that people stay calm and can take informed decisions.”

Khan too agrees. He says, “Cured cases will give individuals massive confidence even if they are suffering from the virus. I saw a video on YouTube where a sports journalist met young sports stars, aged around 15-18, and I was impressed to see the knowledge that they had about the disease and precautions. Thanks to social media, these kids are aware of happenings all around.” 
 
All kinds of information and stories are important, but positive stories can create a bigger impact. “Panic and fear are natural as humans tend to feel panicky of the things they don’t understand. The moment they see that people are getting cured, there will be less chaos and anxiety,” concludes Bhagat. 

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