Responsible social media use during crises

Amid the panic caused by novel coronavirus, the Taal eruption, African Swine Fever, the military conflict in Iran, the bushfires in Australia, the locust swarms in East Africa, and other similar crises, there is a need to think about how we use social media to share, gather, and infer information, and whether such use is responsible and helpful.

Media savvy has prompted many to want to be journalists—the definitive source of information or insight on trendy topics that affect our family, friends, and anyone else in our friends list.

This allows information to spread rapidly among social circles at a rate that has never been seen before in history.

The problem, of course, is that not all information available online is accurate. Indeed, many sources that spread false information lamentably exist. Some of them even do it deliberately, either for coveted influence, ad revenue, or both.

Meantime, our personal insights on these topics may not be completely correct, and while these may be harmless if shared to a couple of friends over coffee, they pose real danger when shared online.
For instance, during the onset of Taal’s restiveness, many suddenly became “volcanologists,” or worse, “psychics,” and started sharing their two cents on the geological activity.

This, naturally, contributed to the already elevated levels of distress of the public, and even caused some to chime in with their “expert” takes on the topic, despite not having sat in any Geology class.
The bottom line is that while many may be well-meaning in their desire to share relevant information, some things are truly and undeniably best left to professionals.

Lastly, remember that it is crucial to share only from official announcements and verified updates from trusted media outfits. Anything else may not only add to panic, or even spread information that is potentially harmful and may endanger lives.