How the Internet has Handled the Most Major Pandemic of its Time
The current outbreak of coronavirus shows the pros and cons of a connected world.
I wrote an article that was published last week. Six days ago to be exact. It was at a point in the news about the novel coronavirus that I felt compelled to give a small amount of information about how to prevent the spread of the virus. I remember thinking, I probably don’t need to say this, but maybe someone who is reading this wouldn’t know about what’s happening.
In the days that followed. Daily-life altering news continued to pour in with such volume that each piece of news seemed more and more expected. The shock of seeing every major sports league halt their season was replaced by the seeming inevitability of several counties surrounding the Bay Area enforcing a “shelter in place” policy. News of confirmed cases doubling from week to week shows just how rapidly the situation with the virus has evolved. It seems that throughout the entirety of this ongoing pandemic, the situation has evolved to be on the more worst-case-scenario side than it has been on the everyone-is-blowing-this-out-of-proportion end.
It seems like eons ago where the news broke that Seattle was dealing with the first major outbreak of the virus in the US. Now the virus has been confirmed in all 50 of the United States and governments are taking aggressive action. Although rumors of severe action have consistently been quelled by authorities, they are often quickly put into place. Just one week ago, the NYPD went out of their way to denounce the rumors that there would be a “shelter in place” protocol put into action in New York City. Now any deviation from that would be a surprise.
With the majority of the world, most recently the US, working from home, without reason to leave their homes, the one common connection has been the internet. For better or worse, and we’ll soon find out which, through these isolating times, feeling isolated is harder than ever. Worldwide usage of social media has given the world a voice in a way that has never been previously possible. The difference now is that instead of the internet being a mixed bag of people having various experiences to share, it is now a shared place for people to talk about their personal experience with something that everyone on the planet is currently dealing with. It is a shared experience unlike just about anything in the age of the internet.
The internet as we know it today thrives off of trends. Social media platforms are built to promote their users participating in trends. TikTok allows users to use others’ sounds, making it easy to build trends based on the sounds created or used by other users. Twitter invented social media trends with hashtags. Evidence of trend culture is everywhere. Now, with the capacity for adopting trends and the structure for encouraging them to be the subject of users’ content, with such a globally significant event, the internet as a community has a common focus for their energy. This creates a platform for potential misinformation as posts spread rapidly about every possible piece of news, but it also allows for the truth to be spread much more quickly than it otherwise could be. Now that we all regrettably swallowed the reality that news sites weren’t blowing the news of the virus out of proportion, the 24 hour news cycle can provide us with constant insight into the most up-to-date information on the virus.
These modern truths might have their downsides; contributing to the global anxiety towards the disease is chief among them. But perhaps that’s what might save us. Although the virus was able to spread so rapidly because of the prevalence of travel, the even faster spread of information might be what saves us. As the story develops, the speed at which we can discover new information could be the ultimate key in preventing the disease from spreading. The trick is being able to sort the good information from the bad.
Stay safe, stay inside, wash your hands, and go to cdc.gov and who.int for more information.