Is Social Media Fueling the Fire Over Ebola?
By Dennis Arnsdorf
People use social media all the time, and in most cases it can be used for remarkably good things and has the potential to generate results almost instantaneously. However, it is equally important that people utilize a certain amount of caution when they are using social media. A good dose of common sense never hurts anything either. This is something that has been well demonstrated recently concerning the Ebola virus. Many people are very frightened and they do not necessarily know what to expect. Their fears have been reflected and amplified on social.
To make matters worse, there are a large number of individuals who do not trust what they are being told by their government officials, nor do they trust what they hear through their own media. While that is understandable to some degree, it is also something that has the potential to be extremely detrimental when these types of fears are voiced on various social channels. It seems as though fear has a tendency to feed on itself and when people are afraid, they are capable of stirring the fears that are deep inside other individuals until hysteria starts taking place. This is how mass panic happens and when these discussions take place online, there is virtually no one to regulate it, so it is very easy for things to get out of hand.
The worst possible scenario that can happen on social is when people began spreading rumors that have no basis in truth. When these posts are read by other individuals who are likely already frightened, a lot of the inaccurate information is then passed from one individual to the next. This type of information only serves to exacerbate and accelerate the fears that already exist, and it has the capacity to grow so rapidly that it is almost impossible to stop. Unfortunately, people often have a tendency to believe rumors more than they want to believe the facts, and when rumors are presented as facts, it can become very difficult to know what to believe and what to dismiss.
Does that mean that social media should not be used to talk about things like Ebola?
Absolutely not. People can and should use it to discuss whatever is on their mind and if they have concerns about the virus, there is absolutely nothing wrong with voicing those concerns or communicating with other people that might have more experience concerning ways to be safe. The problem starts when individuals fail to ensure that what they are reading is the truth. Even worse yet, some individuals have a tendency to automatically believe whatever they read and they take that as fact when it may be completely fabricated. For these reasons, people need to understand that social media is a terrific platform for communicating with others and discussing problems, but it is not completely flawless. As a result, it is important that everyone be responsible about what they post and the people reading to ensure that they are able to verify whether or not that post is based on fact or myth before taking action.