Pandemic relief #5 – A guide to avoid misconceptions about COVID-19

Most of us have taken a physical break from our friends and families to abide by the rules of social distancing. Fortunately, digital technology enables us to keep the conversation going. It’s becoming increasingly clear that many of us are stumbling on the conversational blocks of COVID-19. Often, arguments don’t come down to differences in values. Rather, they are the byproduct of conflicting information we’ve already internalised. Accordingly, the question of today: how do we distinguish facts from fiction?

A sea of bullsh*t

A global pandemic calls many aspects of our lives into question. Public discourse is becoming increasingly nuanced and revolves around complex challenges with no overnight solution. Unfortunately, the media is not always helping. Facts often get mixed with fiction, adding an extra layer of confusion into an already polarising mix. Eventually, it’s up to each of us to decide what we want to read, listen to and believe in.

Suffice to say, a fair share of reporting on COVID-19 provides helpful and solid information based on reliable sources. Sadly, some do the exact opposite by spreading misinformation. Others simply fail to connect the dots in a factually-correct manner. News can make us buy into questionable ideas. See some prime examples below.

Source: Coronavirus Myths & Misconceptions by Information is beautiful (30 March, 2020)

At best claims like these have given you a good laugh. At worst you’ve already gone down the rabbit hole of unreasonable measures to protect yourself against the virus. The list goes on-and-on and the repercussions affect all of us.

The problem goes beyond buying into ideas that are simply not true. The real trouble is created by the behaviour patterns that are triggered by falsehoods. Such consumer actions are known to drive system-level disruptions, which we are hardly in the position to afford.

A global pandemic demonstrates perfectly that half-truths and misinformation negatively impact people and businesses. For instance, think about the risk that befalls health-care workers, because healthy people started buying up face masks. The stakes are simply too high to act irresponsibly.

Fact-check first

This seems about a good point to introduce fact-checking as the go-to option of a sensible citizen. Fact-checking is the act of checking factual information in a nonfiction text to determine the veracity and correctness of statements. It is the ultimate lifeline to avoid drowning in the sea of bullsh*t. Consider the questions below before you buy into any new idea.

Sharing is caring?

Looking at the long list of myths and misconceptions regarding coronavirus, it’s safe to say that a tremendous amount of misinformation can be found online. I do not think, it is our job to fact-check every political claim and debunk each viral deception. It is, however, our responsibility to categorically question what we (choose to) consume.

We are living in an era where each of us are one click away from creating disruptive, viral (mis)information. Such information can quickly create a snowball effect in our economy, food system and health-care. Consequently, the effect can be just as harmful as it can be helpful.

Thus, we ought to act as responsible consumers and co-creators of information. Think of the ways we question where our food comes from and whether it is safe to consume it. A similar logic can be applied to information about COVID-19. The list above offers you a straightforward path by raising some questions.

There is a reason why we avoid eating spoiled food and giving it to others. Be selective and fact-check before you start sharing.

Choose well & click smart,

Réka

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