The Dangers of Social Media  

  • The rise in the use of social media in developed countries has created the perfect storm for spreading of misinformation and generation of conspiracy theories  
  • Due to the time spent on our phones every day, we are constantly bombarded with a chaotic world of misinformation  
  • In the setting of COVID-19, this is extremely dangerous as it is leading to people being vulnerable to the fake news constantly being generated on social media platforms  
  • It is important that the public believe and act according to the evidence-based information and advice provided by scientific experts as we live with the COVID-19 pandemic 

Frightening Facts about Social Media’s Influence  

  • The average person looks at their phone 80 times a day whilst on holidays  
  • 75% of people look at their phone whilst on the toilet, 96% of whom are from Generation Z 
  • A study published in Psychological Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal published by Cambridge University Press, found that people who get their news from social media are more likely to believe conspiracy theories and are more likely to not comply with government lockdown rules  
  • 56% of people who “get a lot of their information from Facebook” did not believe that COVID-19 actually existed and 45% believed the authorities were exaggerating the COVID-19 death numbers  
  • 60% of people who “get a fair enough [or] great deal of their information from YouTube” believe there is a link between 5G and COVID-19  


Tips to Protect Yourself from Misinformation and Help Stop the Spread 

  • Do not be a passive receiver of information but instead use critical thinking and analysis to determine whether the information is accurate  
  • Critique the author  
  • It is a red flag is the author name and credentials are not cited 
  • If the author’s name is provider, search for their name and investigate their credentials 
  • Are they a reputable person to be making claims about COVID-19? 
  • Are they in a position of authority to give advice or information about COVID-19?  
  • Do they have a certain bias or vested interest?  
  • Critique the website, URL, article, images, advertisements 
  • Are their simple errors such as spelling mistakes, incorrect grammar, randomly inserted number amongst words, lowercase letters used for proper nouns? 
  • The most reliable websites end their URL with “.org”, “.au”, “.edu”, “.gov”  
  • Beware of echo chambers, confirmation bias ad emotional responses  
  • Social media platforms are notorious for gathering our personal data and using sophisticated algorithms to feed more of what we’ve previously seen back into our feed  
  • This generates an echo chamber whereby we become exposed to the same types of beliefs, opinions and information we already hold  
  • People like when they see something they agree with because it reassuring to know other people think and feel the same way  
  • This is dangerous because it results in a person having their already-held opinions and beliefs continuously reinforced rather than ever being exposed to something the challenges these beliefs  
  • This becomes even more important in the COVID-19 pandemic, whereby a viewing one single article containing misinformation about the virus will result in that single person seeing more and more of similar articles containing the same falsities 
  • Fake news is generally designed to evoke an emotional response in people because this “hooks” people to continue reading and usually stimulates an angry, devastated or shocked response  
  • Do not share any information that are not 100% sure is true  
  • Always pause before sharing anything to friends, family and followers as this can create a rapid and toxic spread of fake news if you have fallen prey to false information 
  • Report any misinformation online using the WHO’s helpful tips 



Reliable Sources for COVID-19 Information  

  • Make a Telehealth appointment to clarify anything you may have concerning your health and COVID-19 
  • World Health Organisation (WHO)  
  • Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) 
  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 
  • Scientific Journals  


Debunking Myths about COVID-19 Vaccines  

  • For people aged over 12 years old, having two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine (Astra Zeneca, Pfizer or Moderna) significantly decreases your risk of contracting the virus, severe disease, hospitalisation and death from COVID-19 
  • The latest results from a major UK study by researchers at the University of Oxford reveal that: 
  • Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine is 92% effective at preventing a high viral load within 14 days and 78% effective at 90 days against the Delta strain 
  • Two doses of the Astra Zeneca vaccine is 69% effective  at preventing a high viral load within 14 days and 61% effective at 90 days against the Delta strain 
  • Despite the drop in immunity, both vaccines are still perceived by medical statisticians to be very effective at reducing risk of infection with the Delta strain  
  • A peer-review journal published in The New England Journal of Medicine reveals that: 
  • Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine is 85.3-90.1% effective at preventing symptomatic disease caused by Delta strain  
  • Two doses of the Astra Zeneca vaccine is 61.3-71.8% effective at preventing symptomatic disease caused by Delta strain  
  • The more people who are vaccinated, the less likely the transmission of the virus which has both individually and community-level benefits: 
  • Reduces your personal risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19  
  • Reduces the burden on the healthcare system, allowing more hospital beds, ICU beds, ventilators, doctors and nurses to be available to treat other life-threatening illnesses other than COVID-19 


Helpful Resources 

  • Go Viral 
  • GoViral! is a game developed by Cambridge University in partnership with the UK Government  
  • It allows players a rapid taste of techniques used to spread fake news on social media with the hope that players will be able to identify and disregard misinformation circulation on the internet in the future  
  • A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied showed that just a single play of the game can reduce a person’s susceptibility to misinformation spread on social media for at least three months  
  • First Draft  
  • First Draft is an online organisation aimed at protecting communities from harmful misinformation by education people on the ways to recognise misinformation