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January 18, 2022

The pressures of an‘infodemic’

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Entertainment in the Byron Shire and beyond for the week beginning 19 January, 2022

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Grace Chance and music teacher/musician, Sam Greenaway. Photo Jeff Dawson

Mirembe Campbell

One pandemic is more than enough to deal with, but brace yourself, because the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyes, says we are fighting two: COVID-19 and an ‘infodemic’.

An infodemic occurs when excessive contradictory, false and misleading information leads to difficulty in identifying and enforcing solutions to a crisis.

Sound familiar? Now try to imagine you’re a young person, trying to get a grasp on how the world works beyond high school.

The COVID-19 crisis is the first pandemic in history to feature the mass use of technology and social media for the purposes of keeping people safe, informed, connected and productive.

But those efforts are regularly undermined as misinformation is spread using the same technology.

University of Chittagong’s Professor of Marketing, Zapan Barua, says the catastrophic eruption of the infodemic means misinformation is spreading faster than COVID-19.

Socal media increase

Meanwhile, research from psychology Professor, Urmi Nanda Biswas, at India’s M.S University of Baroda, shows a significant increase in youth streaming services and social media usage since the start of the pandemic.

Grace Chance lives in the Byron Shire, where she finished her HSC last year.

‘It’s messing with my brain’, Ms Chance says of the infodemic.

The young woman attributes her confusion about COVID-19 to contradictory government messaging, but says conflicting social media communications have magnified the issue.

Ms Chance recently spoke with BayFM’s Community Nerwsroom, saying that living in Byron, she’s surrounded by information claiming COVID-19 isn’t real’.

In-person interactions with other locals at the cafe where she works aren’t helping.

Ms Chance says she is continually approached by angry customers complaining about QR codes and masks, and regularly receives uninvited lectures from patrons about how COVID-19 is really about ‘getting all our information’.

‘It’s so confusing,’ she says.

Byron-based musician and music teacher, Sam Greenaway, can also relate to the idea of an infodemic, saying the amount of accessible COVID-19 information is ‘absolutely overwhelming’.

Mr Greenaway says the government’s steady stream of conflicting messages reinforces existing ‘distrust’ that is then strengthened through social media and streaming services where people are discrediting ‘everything’ and claiming ‘COVID-19 is a conspiracy theory’. 

Earlier this month, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters that young people will be most impacted by the COVID-19 Delta variant.

Mr Greenaway accuses Ms Berejiklian of ‘terrifying’ young people who are ‘already very afraid’. 

More recently, the NSW government announced they’ll be delaying the HSC again, this time until November 9.

But education authorities say they’re unsure how many exams will happen.

Mr Greenaway says the NSW government’s mystifying messaging, coupled with their repeated delays of HSC exams, is profoundly disruptive.

‘Teachers don’t know what’s happening’, Mr Greenaway says, adding that students are ‘stressed across the board’. 

Reform needed

The comments from Mr Greenaway and Ms Chance come as leaders highlight mental health concerns for young people with prolonged lockdowns.

Headspace Board Director and Melbourne University Professor of Youth Mental Health, Patrick McGorry, is calling on all governments to create a new mental health system.

Professor McGorry says policy makers must accept their approach for managing the pandemic is failing and now is the time for change.

Ms Chance agrees.

‘It’s not just about confusion’, she says, ‘the government needs to think about why so many people are taking their own lives’.

Mirembe Campbell is a BayFM member. Listen to her interviews with Grace Chance and Sam Greenaway via Community Newsroom at bayfm.org.


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1 COMMENT

  1. Have you ever heard about ADE. I have not either until Naftali Bennett spoke about it in the Knesset. And Rochelle Walensky of the White House in the USA gave a briefing on the 18.08.2021. ADE is Antibody-Dependent-Enhancement, meaning you have a waning immunity against the delta variant after two shots of vaccine with the Wuhan original strain. More than 50 % over 10 weeks. There is no warning, and the pharmaceutical companies have been aware of this condition, because they had animal trials. The so called booster jab does nothing more than give you the original strain, and opens the door to delta.
    That means that even young people, who were not affected by this virus before get really sick after being vaccinated. This potential risk of mass vaccinations is being kept under the table. Talk about misinformation. All this is out in the open, thanks to the internet, but your Government is putting the head in the sand, like a good old Emu. ScoMo and his Band of ministers are not capable of dealing with this crisis. ADE = check it out!

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