According to data from the Pew Research Center, one-in-five U.S. adults say they get their news from social media. That’s slightly higher than print newspapers. If you’re reading this and you have a Facebook or Twitter account, you probably already know that this trend presents serious concerns in the age of COVID-19.
Further data proves those concerns warranted. A recent Pew Research Center article shared findings from a survey uncovering that people who turn to social media for political and election news are less likely than others to closely follow coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The survey data also reveals that more than half of these consumers have seen made-up news about the pandemic on social platforms. According to the survey, “Those who use social media as their common news pathways – 18 percent of U.S. adults – fare comparatively poorly when it comes to answering” questions about the virus.
It’s simply harder for individuals who scroll through social media feeds for their news to know whether that post their friend’s uncle shared is backed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Additionally, the spread of false updates or preemptive sharing of developing stories can exacerbate already challenging situations. For example, with social media news feeds constantly updating, individuals could be exposed to a developing story’s headline once and then potentially never again.
We’ve seen information spread like wildfire during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is critical that reporters and news sites don’t take advantage of these uncharted times. It’s equally as important for the rest of us to ask questions of our sources.
Social media can be a great source of comfort and connection, especially now. Unfortunately, it’s not the best source of accurate information about COVID-19. While reading the news can be anxiety inducing, ensuring the spread of accurate information is critical to keeping people safe.
If you have gotten into the habit of relying on social media for news, please check out CDC and World Health Organization’s “latest updates” pages, as well as their social media accounts. These sources may provide important perspective for you and your loved ones.