Misinformation can cause panic and unnecessary stress on a community’s wellbeing and negatively affect their behaviour and mental health when dealing with Covid-19.
Unfounded rumours can result in people following the incorrect guidelines. This can result in troubling situations as we saw with individuals panic-buying food despite there being no issues with the supply chain. Unnecessary fear and anxiety are particularly harmful to vulnerable individuals and those with less ability to access factual information. We all have a role to play in protecting our community and ourselves from the harms of misinformation.
Social media applications such Whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook have been used to proliferate harmful lies at the emotional cost of those reading them. To prevent this spread of misinformation, it is important that we all make an effort to break the chain of rumours and remain vigilant in recognising when information does not come from an accurate or trustworthy source.
Before sharing information about Covid-19 online or in-person, remember to always W.A.I.T.
W – Wait for updates from a trusted source
The only way to know if the information is true is if it comes from an official, trusted source. Trusted sources are the likes of the HSE, the World Health Organisation and the Department for Health. These are the organisations with the most relevant and up to date information. Word-of-mouth rumours are not dependable – as anyone who’s played Chinese Whispers can attest to!
A – Assess whether it will cause panic
Be mindful of how your words affect others. Rumours can cause unnecessary stress for people who are vulnerable to Covid-19 as well as your colleagues and family. If your opinion or information is based upon conjecture or worst-case scenarios, this can panic your audience. We are all under stress at this time and there is no need to be stressing about things that have not and, potentially, will not happen.
I – Ignore unsubstantiated/unproven claims
Opinions and stories can change when passed from person to person. There is no benefit in sharing news that isn’t accurate. The internet is full of opinions that are stated as fact with very little basis or research. Sharing this information will only counteract the national effort to keep people safe. It also benefits the people who shared misinformation in the first place as it provides them with a larger platform and audience, encouraging the cycle of false news. The best thing you can do is ignore it.
T- Try to always be kind
This is a difficult time for everyone. Before making judgements on the actions of others remember that no one can know how everyone’s feeling. Compassion is the best step forward for us all and the only way we will get through this as a community. Be kind to those around you.
Read more about Covid-19 here.