Epidemic Etiquette: To Share Or Not To Share?

Graphic via Desirée Tapia for The Americano

By Yehudit Mam

March 24, 2020

Newsflash: You are not Dr. Fauci. And this is meant to be shared.

As we are all in a virtual lockdown, social media has taken over. We communicate with friends and family online and overwhelm everyone’s Whatsapp with memes, homemade videos, Italian mayors having meltdowns, and other entertaining stuff. My personal favorite is this feisty little Spaniard who wants to go out. No doubt, some of this material helps us all cope and laugh and keep our social lives going. Alas, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Many people feel compelled to disseminate information about the pandemic as if they were Dr. Fauci. 

Newsflash: YOU ARE NOT DR. FAUCI. 

I am constantly surprised at getting unreliable information from otherwise sensible people. I have gotten unwieldy messages, anonymously written, about all kinds of cures for coronavirus, none of which is proven: gargling baking soda, gargling water and salt, gargling baking soda and lemon, cautioning people not to take ibuprofen and a host of other serious prescription medicines. This phenomenon is not relegated to the simple-minded. We are all vulnerable to it. So for the love of God: STOP. Before you resend what was sent to you by your tía Chuchita, use some common sense.

Here are some basic guidelines: 

When someone sends you medical information about Coronavirus the first thing you have to do is read the entire thing carefully. Then ask yourself who is the source? Who wrote it? Who is behind it? Is the name of a doctor or a reputable health institution attached, or was it written by a ghost? If there is no attribution, or it looks like it was copied and pasted from nowhere, you don’t know where this information came from and you don’t know if it’s trustworthy. You could be putting people’s lives in danger. Don’t. Send It. 

If you are unsure, do some research, but not on your friend’s Paquito’s timeline, nor on YouTube, or obscure blogs where anyone can post pretty much anything without editorial oversight. 

Use reliable sources. Unfortunately, in the age of social media, medium and major outlets (with some exceptions, ahem) have been unreliably politicized. President Trump has created a frightening alternate reality claiming that the media (that is, any media that criticizes him or tries to report facts) is “the enemy of the people,” and that reputable news organizations are “fake news.” The damage he has caused with this rhetoric cannot be underestimated: people have stopped trusting facts, science, and reality itself. I see examples of this on my Whatsapp, on Facebook and on Twitter. Therefore we all need to be extra vigilant. Contrary to what Trump and his army of gaslighters say, reputable sources are still the main TV networks (with the exception of Fox News, which is a White House propaganda channel), the main national newspapers, international news organizations like the BBC and press agencies like AP and Reuters. In the case of medical information, you can trust health organizations like the CDC, WHO, or established universities and science institutes. These organizations are trustworthy because they have editorial and research standards in place and they are guided by facts and science. They can be held accountable. Finally, do not spread conspiracy theories: not that the virus was invented by the Chinese to curb population (as someone told me), or by the CIA, Putin, or the Messiah (you heard that right). This doesn’t help. All it does is spread anxiety, confusion, and lies. In these frightening times, we are all counting on each other to act sensibly. Disinformation behaves in exactly the same way as a virus. It is contagious and dangerous. Think before you share. This has been a public service announcement.




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