EVEN as the country -- and the world -- puts together all its resources to combat the scourge of coronavirus, a dangerous trend has become active in the society, making a direct contribution to creating panic among people about the possible outcome of the deadly infection that has already taken more than 31,000 lives worldwide. The social media -- about whose credibility and utility the world had been worrying for long -- is agog with information that is almost fully unfounded and unauthorised about how to tackle the coronavirus scare.
This massive loose talk has now become a matter of worry of the authorities whose first concern is to ensure that the people are not afflicted by panic and indulge in actions that make little sense on the ground. Countless lakhs of users of social media have been found abusing the facility in the most irresponsible and thoughtless manner.
They have been doing that for years on all counts. But as coronavirus started making a negative impact, the abusers of social media started spreading scare like a wildfire. At least a million advices are floating around on social media about what to do and what not to do about handling the coronavirus infection. If some of these advisories may have been backed by authentic and scientific and official data, most others are just senseless fliers about how to fight the deadly virus. The authorities seem to have no way of checking this abuse, except following technical protocols to monitor and control cyber crime. The Government has approached this issue with appeals to people’s good sense. It is urging the people not to spread rumours and panic among people, and also not to believe nonsense that is being dished out from countless social media accounts and posts.
All those appeals, however, seem to have only a limited effect as senseless posts are available in increasing numbers day in and day out on social media. While some so-called advices appear sensible to some extent, others are nothing but gossip and loose talk aimed at god-knows-what. All this gossip bazar is helping nobody! There is little doubt that this rumour-mill is sourced from a qualified but uneducated society whose members appear all willing to hit the panic button at a moment’s notice. In a big Tier-II city, people came together to oppose creation of a quarantine facility in a Government structure in good shape but used only periodically.
Their contention was that the virus would spread in the surrounding area -- which was actually thinly populated. In some urban housing societies, people went to ridiculous distances to impose ban on their own sensible movements. All such developments are being fanned by social media left-right-and-centre with no check of conscience, collective or individual. Medical experts who are actually handling the management of the coronavirus suspects or patients support none of the social media fliers. They have an altogether different approach to the challenge. The Government has offered sane advisories to the people to follow.
It also introduces changes in its advisories from time to time as the situation changes course. If the people listen to those wise words, there will be no panic in the society. Yet, rumours fly so thick and fast that there are more misconceptions about the issue than any sensible understanding. It is not fathomable at this stage how the Government would tackle the menace in the ultimate analysis. But until the Government finds the right way to do that, the best way is for the people to pause and think sensibly about what is happening on the social media, and stop attaching much importance to the rumour mill working overtime. At this stage, the society does not require rumours from what is described as ‘WhatsApp University’; it requires sensible thought and controlled action.