Stop, Think, Share… why we all need to hit pause before we post, especially when it comes to COVID-19.

One of the big issues we have seen so far, and will undoubtedly see an increase of over the coming weeks, is the number of mis-informed, non-expert key board warriors adding to a dangerous narrative that detracts from the core message of disease prevention and health preservation. Let’s work together to do something about it!

I am tired.

The days have been long, many of them spent saying the same thing to the same people on repeat because in the current climate, all news can be made into breaking news; and each breaking news story brings with it a flood of frustrated individuals buying and feeding into the ‘panic’ narrative by exclaiming: ‘Why is nothing being done?’, ‘What are you hiding?’, ’You should be doing this…’, the list goes on.

And my issue here is not these people’s frustrations, of course they’re frustrated; but it’s the sense of entitlement to express an opinion without (a) backing it up with reliable facts or (b) consideration of the consequences of what is said; that I am finding more and more intolerable.

Personally, the insinuation that the hundreds of people I see working around the clock are doing nothing is the most difficult for me to digest and is something that has really gotten me down over the past few weeks; not because it disregards my own work but because it completely fails to recognise the thousands of staff across the country whose entire lives have been taken over by responding to the situation. The colleagues who have cancelled family holidays, barely seen their children or partners for weeks. The people on call 24/7, the people I have seen literally ordered to go home, sleep and eat because they are putting the health of the nation before their own well-being.

So please think of them before you post your outrage that ‘nobody is taking this seriously’, because while it only takes few minutes to get into a huff and post a comment (probably after reading a click-bait article ), it is costing the people who are taking the situation seriously a lot of time to undo the negative impact it creates. And they’re already busy beyond belief!

It’s about taking responsibility.

In an age of mass media, information overload and fake news, misleading information has become a huge threat to our health and to society as a whole. The danger it poses by creating hysteria, confusion and mistrust is so unbelievably difficult to undo that it can seriously drain resources in terms of time, money and people power. It also incredibly demotivating for the people who are working hard to protect the public and make sure they are getting access to the right information and support they need.

One thing that has reassured me, particularly over the last few days is the messaging from people of all political affinities encouraging others to only share accurate, trustworthy information from reliable sources. Again this will only start to repair some of the damage misinformation has created, but the more people that can help combat it, the quicker we can recover.

The previous wave of anti-vaccination propaganda showed us how much damage blindly sharing content can do, and it’s vital that during a worldwide pandemic, we do not do more harm than good by not checking the facts before we share. That also includes thinking before we post our own assessments of the situation- are they indeed based on solid facts and figures we one hundred percent know to be true, or is it something we have been told by a second or maybe third party that heard it from someone else. In these situations, speculation and assumption can be just as harmful as purposefully misleading information, mostly due to the fact that we now live in a culture where opinion is presented and received as fact.

So I guess this brings me to the point of this blog which is a desperate plea to stop and think before you share.

Rather than sharing one person’s rant about what is happening, maybe share the resource that accurately says what action is being taken. Rather than posting that your cousin’s dog sitter’s partner thinks they have the virus but nobody is testing them, maybe share the actual number of confirmed cases or a link to the advice about what to do if you think you have the virus. What I’m saying is that inaccuracy is adding to the online hysteria, when in reality there are many out there simply reading and following the guidance without the avoidable stress- it’s just that these people aren’t making the headlines or nobody is retweeting them because there’s no excitement in that.

I find it astounding that someone can post their disgust that they ‘called NHS 111 to only be told to self-isolate at home’, despite that fact that the published guidance says to self-isolate and only call NHS 111 if you think you can’t manage your symptoms or if they worsen. What this does is create a non-issue that negatively shifts the online narrative. Suddenly there is a feeling that there is no information out there, that nobody is being tested and that suspected cases are being left to fend for themselves; when in actual fact their individual situation enables them to safely self-isolate as per the published guidance (that they’ve neglected to read).  

But then again, we also have to ask how likely they are to have seen the information amongst the sea of negative comments and hyperbole that continues to obstruct important messages like self-isolation guidance from getting through to the right people?

So here’s my plea.

Please think about the content you are sharing in relation to COVID-19. Please think about the source of that information and whether or not what your saying is constructively adding to the conversation or merely seeking to disrupt it.

Of course, there will be decisions and times where challenge is necessary, but even then we have to think about how we responsibly contribute to that discussion.

Do we value our wit and the number of retweets we get over the damage we inflict? Do we think more about the popularity of our opinion than its accuracy? Do we want to help make the situation better or derail the progress that is being made? These are all questions we need to ask ourselves before we post, and more importantly they are questions that if asked more often, could make social media a much more friendly, safe and fairer place to co-exist.

So what are you waiting for, share something useful today and help people #KnowTheFacts

See below a list of useful links that you can share online to help people access the important information they will need over the coming weeks and hopefully then share themselves. Share it with #KnowTheFacts and #COVID19 to help spread the word and join the responsible posting revolution!

Latest information on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Self-isolation advice

What to do if you have symptoms

Reducing the risk of spreading catching or spreading coronavirus

Simple step to follow video (tweet)

Advice for educational settings

Advice for social and community settings

Advice for employers and businesses

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