What Role has Social Media Played in COVID-19?


In the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), many turned to social media for information and guidance. There are both positive and negative aspects to this behavior. These range from the spread of misinformation to the indispensable role social media has played in the dissemination of accurate information and mental health education. This article looks at both the challenges and benefits, considering who is potentially more likely to use social media and thus be impacted by the information imparted on the digital platforms that are now an integral part of our daily lives.

The novel coronavirus has caused severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) worldwide. Since its declaration as a public health emergency of international concern, by the WHO in March 2020, the mortality rate associated with the ensuing Covid-19 pandemic has reached proportions of between 2% and 3% worldwide ––higher than that of the Spanish Influenza (H1N1) which occurred early in the twentieth century. In the wake of the crisis, many turned to social media to find information and support and to help them to cope with the emotional toll.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led us into a global crisis in mental health. The administration and dissemination of accurate information concerning the virus are essential to the expunction of fear and uncertainty ––factors that serve to exacerbate stress and mental ill-health. A major advantage of social media and other digital platforms is the ease of access to information.

This easy accessibility presents ample opportunity for education. Such provision of key information can help reduce the mental health consequences of the pandemic. In the event of a health crisis, smartphones, tablets, and other electrical devices are within easy reach and many people are now more likely to turn to newsfeeds on social media platforms than they are to more traditional sources of media.

In addition to health information, these platforms are a means of relief and they are an outlet for peer support. In the event of a health crisis, an emotional outlet such as this has proven indispensable. But who is more likely to turn to sources and channels such as these?