A few weeks ago I recommended readers get their online information from reliable sources: epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists, or the medical officer of health, for example. Not from random covIdiots with too much time on their hands and very little between their ears. I stand by that suggestion.
Today, I’m writing about social media and its negative impact on our wellbeing. A wellbeing we must work hard to preserve during COVID-19.
A couple weeks ago, I deleted my Facebook account. I’ve gone on “Facebook holidays” in the past - during high stake exams, for example - since I find it distracting more often than not. This time, I left for good. As much as I love seeing photos of my friends, their kids, or their adventures, Facebook has become more of a platform for keyboard warriors to launch their missiles without fear of retaliation.
I believe in freedom of speech, but when did anyone’s opinion on anything become valid? I certainly wouldn’t walk onto a construction site and start telling an electrician what to do: that’s what a contractor is for. Likewise, I wouldn’t expect a contractor to tell me how to stitch up a wounded patient. There is expertise in the world and that’s how things get done as safe as possible. Yet, somehow, the concept of expertise seems to be replaced more and more by the loud voices on social media.
I was part of so many groups - movements of all sorts masquerading as information pages - that I inevitably found myself worked up and frustrated every time I logged in. People engage in less inhibited communication, which leads to unproductive battles that have no end goal except to get likes. You cannot negotiate effectively via Facebook messages because you don’t even have to be responsible for anything your write - you can just put it out there and watch others comment. How can solutions ever be found?
Some of you will say: just leave those groups then and keep your friends only. Sure, but what about the news and the ads? The ones Facebook posts or your friends share? These also impress on the reader positions and arguments without actually sitting down and discussing them. Then you have to deal with the headline warriors - the ones who spread headlines with no critical analysis of what’s said in the article. Energy and time lost with no productive endgame, and your brain easily manipulated by what’s been shared. You can find anything to support any opinion you might have on social media. Anything. Something we call confirmation bias.
The worst part is, every single keyboard warrior imagines him or herself an expert. They feel entitled and superior, even to the experts, because they’ve read a few articles on the subject. Or a few headlines. They get pleasure from baleful trolling and criticizing others on the internet.
During these COVID-19 times, there has been an influx of keyboard warriors and realizing I can’t change them (you just can’t reason with stupid), best to take control of its negative impact by removing myself from forums where I’m forced to interact with them. What a waste of time and energy. If the world worked together and used that hateful energy toward finding a vaccine, we’d have one already.
Dear COVID-19 is a weekly column supplied by
Drs. Rithesh and Veronique Ram