SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE MANAGEMENT OF COVID-19 INFORMATION IN PORT HARCOURT
1.0 Background of the study
The unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how the spread of misinformation, amplified on social media and other digital platforms, is proving to be as much a threat to global public health as the virus itself. Technology advancements and social media create opportunities to keep people safe, informed and connected. However, the same tools also enable and amplify the current pandemic that continues to undermine the global response and jeopardizes measures to control the pandemic.
Although young people are less at risk of severe disease from COVID-19, they are a key group in the context of this pandemic and share in the collective responsibility to help us stop transmission. They are also the most active online, interacting with an average number of 5 digital platforms (such as, Twitter, TikTok, WeChat and Instagram) daily.
As the pandemic has encroached on and emasculated global operations, social networking sites have been used as a source of knowledge for people. Its importance has grown as a result of the government's implementation of a lockdown policy to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus. As a result, social media evolved into an active tool for engagement and communication in order to disseminate credible information.
Social Media is an offshoot of the Internet and according to DiMaggio et al. (2001), the Internet refers to the electronic network or networks that link(s) people and information through computers and other digital devices; thereby allowing for person-to-person communication and information retrieval. The Internet is a major tool that emerged for the purpose of information dissemination, thus, the social media acts as an information hegemony in terms of determining what information is made available to people as well as the impression people have on issues (Savrum & Leon, 2015).
Largely, Social Media is the collection of websites and web-based systems that allow for mass interaction, conversation and sharing among members of a network (Murphy, 2013). Its power lies in live pictures conveyed by video recording of events as it unfolds. The international live-streaming of events is capable of mobilizing a huge population of citizenry for positive or negative end.
The Coronavirus (Covid-19) is an infectious disease causes respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe respiratory difficulties. It originated from the Hunan seafood market at Wuhan, China where live bats, snakes, raccoon dogs, wild animals among others were sold in December 2019 (Shereen et al., 2020, pp. 91–98) and was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020 (WHO, 2020).
Notably, Nigeria as every other government tried to curb the rapid spread of Covid-19 through immediate lockdown of all sectors and after which several safety guideline was stipulated according to the National Centre for Disease Control in line with World Health Organization preventive measures against Corona Virus(NCDC 2020). The achievement of these feats can be attributed not just to proper healthcare facilities but also to the impacts of social media in the country. Its platforms: WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have become varying means of communication and engagement by not just the government but by the general populace especially young people. However there is an urgent need to monitor and mange information and data released on various social media platforms regarding the Covid-19 in order to ensure that people do not spread unrealistic assumptions and panic-prone information about the novel disease either by the government or private users. This is because of the impact this information has on the public audience which might lead to anxiety, loss of faith in the government and detrimental to those who has been infected by the virus. Therefore it is on this note, that this research intends to examine Social media and the management of Covid-19 information.
1.2 Statement of the problem
In the face of the fears of the spread of the novel corona virus, social media is a critical tool for disseminating information to the general public. In the case of Nigeria, it is a double-edged sword because it helps people to access information without hindrance. To better understand how young adults are engaging with technology during this global communication crisis, an international study was conducted, covering approximately 23,500 respondents, aged 18-40 years, in 24 countries across five continents. This project was a collaboration between the World Health Organization (WHO), Wunderman Thompson, the University of Melbourne and Pollfish. With data collected from late October 2020 to early January 2021, the outcomes provide key insights on where Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2015 who patronize social media for entertainment and fun, who follow information shared by their favorite influencers without verification) and Millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996, Millennials tend to spend a significant amount of their life in 'virtual' social media environments, to the extent that they rely on social media for most information) seek COVID-19 information, who they trust as credible sources, their awareness and actions around false news, and what their concerns are. The information at which the young people are exposed to is of relevant in this period of global crisis, as it likely shapes their reaction(in terms of causes of covid-19 and compliance to the covid-19 safety measures and practices) towards the novel diseases, which can either reduce or escalate the spread of the virus. Social media platforms regularly patronized by Nigerians include, Twitter, Instagram, WatsApp, Tik-Tok, Facebook and YouTube. However covid-19 content, data and information shared on these platforms can play either a negative role or positive role towards curbing or spreading the corona virus, thus the need for the management of such information arise. However it is against this backdrop that this study is set to investigate Social media and the management of Covid-19 information.
1.3 Objective of the Study
This study is set to examine Social media and the management of Covid-19 information in Port Harcourt. Specifically it is geared to:
Examine if covid-19 information is been shared on social media.
Determine the extent to which information on covid-19 shared on social media platforms is line with that of WHO.
Examine the extent at which Covid-19 information shared on social media platforms is been managed.
1.4 Significance of the study
This study would be relevant to the general public and also contribute to the body of knowledge. More so it will be a wake up call for social media content developers to enhance their efficiency while developing creative contents in order to curb the spread of corona virus. It will also heighten the awareness of social media users on the need to discard fake and invalid information about corona virus and its mode of infection. The study will enable government and policy makers on the need to monitor content shared on social media platforms in order to avoid sharing panic related message to the reading public as this is detriment to their disposition and could make them loose confidence on the government efforts towards fighting the novel corona virus.
This study will further add to existing literature on this topic and as well serve as a benchmark and eye-opener to students, scholars and researchers who may wish to carry out further research on this study or related domain in the future.
1.5 Scope the study
This study focuses on examining if covid-19 information is been shared on social media; and to determine the extent to which information on covid-19 shared on social media platforms is line with that of WHO. This study also examines the extent at which Covid-19 information shared on social media platforms is been managed. Social media users in Port Harcourt, Rivers State are enrolled as participants for this study.
1.6 Research Question
The following questions guide this study:
Is covid-19 information is been shared on social media?
To what extent does the information on covid-19 shared on social media platforms is line with that of WHO?
To what extent does Covid-19 information shared on social media platforms is been managed?
1.7 LIMITATION OF STUDY Financial constraint– Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview). Time constraint– The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
However in the midst above mentioned limitation the researcher devotedly ensured that the purpose of the study was actualized.
1.8 Definition of terms
Social Media : this is the collection of websites and web-based systems that allow for mass interaction, conversation and sharing among members of a network.Its power lies in live pictures conveyed by video recording of events as it unfolds.Example of social media include Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Watsapp and others
Covid-19:Corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is defined as illness caused by a novel corona virus called severe acute respiratory syndrome corona virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2.
Information: information is a news or knowledge communicated or received concerning a particular fact or circumstance.
Information Management: Information Management means the organization of and control over the structure, processing, and delivery of information.