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Home Features When online worlds collide: the age of Covid and social media

When online worlds collide: the age of Covid and social media

By Olivia Bowman
Correspondent

In the past year and a half, both Covid-19 and social media have been two things that have been impossible to escape. Some people log into Instagram to feel like they are still a part of humanity, and at the same time, they are looking at Instagram stories about Covid cases and vaccine availability daily, if not hourly. 

Although it is important to stay informed and keep one another safe, how much information about the virus are college-aged students digesting from social media? Is it all accurate? 

The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a study which stated that in Gen Z and Millenials, awareness of false news is high.

Social media can be used to stay up to date with Covid-19 (Envato Elements).

“More than half (59.1%) of Gen Z and Millennials surveyed are ‘very aware’ of ‘fake news’ surrounding COVID-19 and can often spot it,” the WHO stated in a March 2021 article. “However, the challenge is in recruiting them to actively counter it, rather than letting it slide, with many (35.1%) just ignoring [it].”

Social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Facebook now have links and stories on the latest Covid news, including information about case counts and how and where to get your vaccine. And as soon as a new piece of information about the virus comes out, there are sure to be “For You pages” full of photos and videos about it. 

Manon Mincieli, a junior elementary education and English major at the College said she likes to follow sources on social media that are as reputable as possible when it comes to Covid news. 

“I feel like I do get a lot of information from Instagram and social media in general. But of course I’m going to question everything that I see by doing further research,” Mincieli said. “Just casually seeing something on social media doesn’t mean that it’s true by any means. Oftentimes, especially on social media, there are a lot of people who try to spread misinformation so I think it’s always important to fact check.”

She also said that she follows Gov. Phil Murphy on social media, as he posts relevant statistics and CDC updates. 

Many politicians and government officials have upped their social media game since the virus began. Since some people are on their phones more often, social media presences may be noticed more. 

Three researchers found that out of eight groups of accounts including universities and celebrities, politician’s tweets on Covid-19 were the fourth most viewed, beating out medical journals which were ranked number five, according to an article by liebertpub.com.

Lauren Gruman, a freshman speech pathology major, also follows Gov. Murphy on Instagram. She said that she has looked to social media more than ever for getting her news.  

“Especially since the CDC posts on social media and posts numbers, I do think I’ve been able to keep up with vaccines and numbers,” Gruman said. “COVID has definitely made me use social media for more news, and helped me refine the news sources I get info from.”

There have been links on social media suggesting to “find out more” about Covid, and who is eligible to be vaccinated. 

For sophomore photography major Isabel Smith, Instagram is where she goes most often to get her news. 

“I feel Instagram stories have a lot more coverage than anything else,” said Smith. “I can’t go on Instagram without seeing something COVID related, but it’s sort of reassuring to me that I have somewhere where I can go.”

Even with the vaccines being widely distributed, it seems that both Covid and a reliance on social media are far from over, and Mincieli said it is important to remember that. 

“To myself and many others, Covid is still a very scary thing that should not be taken lightly. I know we have been in it for so long now but that doesn’t mean that we should stop caring,” Mincieli said. “So I use my tiny platform [Instagram] as a way of informing others and keeping this topic relevant.”

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