Role of Social Media in the COVID-19 Crisis

Gautam Kumar Das

COVID-19 event is declared as a global pandemic in 2020 by the World Health Organisation. In such a crisis, most of the people all over the world track the number of confirmed and active cases, recovered patients and deceased of their own countries along with the same for the other countries through social media, digital web applications and internet access. But regionally, the impact of social media is very much important as it plays a crucial role in communicating news within a fraction of a second or any mistake that accelerate propagation of corona viruses. For an example, in March 2020, Kolkata has first witnessed the overseas carrier of COVID-19 who tested positive. That COVID-19 positive is none but a twenty years old young chap, a student of Oxford University, a son of a mom who is in a responsible position in the state administration and whose father is a well-reputed doctor in a district headquarters.

This intentional misconduct by the boy and his parent is highlighted vividly by the social media users with wide criticism. Further, social media users are shocked with the central government’s sudden call of first lock down with only four hours’ notice that leads to millions of workers stranded far away from their homes, with no food, shelter, or cash reflecting the first lock down was very poorly planned and managed. And six weeks later, when the central government belatedly arranged trains for migrant workers, millions of workers returned homes carrying with the deadly corona viruses. Such events shocked the social media users and the gist of their posts are like that – this is the virus that came to India on international flights. It landed in Kolkata, but because of hasty lock down, migrants took the virus from cities and towns to villages. And numbers started to grow as India began reopening in June – unable to afford lock down any longer and testing increased. People started travelling across states, and even within the states more, possibly ferrying the virus along the way. Users of the social media hold the same opinion on the issue like returning of migrant labourers that help increasing of more positive cases.

Most of the users wrote on their wall that India’s swift lock down in March left millions of urban workers jobless and most of them returned to their villages in April and May. Like West Bengal, one of the states where cases have been rising fast in Bihar – millions of people from this poor northern state move to cities in search of better jobs and it’s their return that is believed to have set off case numbers here. Again, people using the social media are not unanimous at all in the issue of testing of patients as Andhra Pradesh is also testing a lot – at 44,000 tests per million, it has one of the highest testing rates per capita in India, but Andhra Pradesh have also been seeing high rates of increase. Andhra Pradesh see many of its overseas workers returning from gulf countries leads to more positive cases.

So, if only tests are the acid test, the United States should be flying high, naturally, testing is not the acid test. The United States has high testing rates, 1,50,000 per million, but has also struggled to curb the virus or keep the death toll low. When uncovering a lot of cases and death rates remain low, there is this feeling that there isn’t as much to be feared from the virus. The death rate from COVID-19 is relatively low in India, 2.07%, but the social media accused the government of undercounting COVID-19 deaths. Social media users support and salute the officials as well as health workers. They mourn in the death of Ms Debdatta Roy, Deputy District Magistrate of Hugli district suffered from COVID-19 who tackled and managed the migrant labourers returning homes and dropped at Dankuni station from the train duly arranged by the central government. Even some social media users and bloggers mentioned these trains as corona express in their post and wall. Anyway, they always support and pay respects to the health officials and other health workers stating district officials did wide spread fever surveillance and recruited community volunteers to enforce quarantine rules and safety measures. But none of this proved enough for economic activities resumed and the authorities struggled to continue with the efforts.

In their posts and wall, social media users, asked valued questions to the authorities on the matter of celebrations of the social festivals particularly for the people gathered for parties, weddings, birth day celebrations after the lock down is relaxed where the rules are not followed – how can authorities stop them, how many people can be prosecuted for neglecting their social responsibility etc.

Social media is undoubtedly a virtual and interactive web internet-based applications. It is such a digital tool that allows users to quickly create and share content with the public. It’s like an individual’s home allowing users to connect with strangers who are sharing content related to a topic of internet. Once a profile has been created, users not only can create and share content, but the users post their own opinion to the other’s post, even not known to them. For all these facilities, users of the social media generally used to have published new set of insights day by day into rising topic trends during COVID-19, which are interestingly reflected across regions.

Overall, correcting mistakes through criticism, social media play a positive role in the corona virus crisis, though it’s a virtual platform where most of the friends and followers are not even known to the users. In this present corona virus pandemic, the gist of all posts in the social media, at present, tell a tale – everything is fine but the numbers of the confirmed positive cases don’t say that. The last and the least, people using social media sometimes communicate fake news and that misinformation during a crisis like COVID-19 can result in people being left uninformed, unprotected and vulnerable. So, therefore, social media users are advised by the United Nations not to share rumours and must choose content verified by reliable sources.

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Aug 10, 2020

Gautam Kumar Das

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