How Social Media Is a Risk To Global Health

Misinformation, or lack of clear information, is a growing problem with the rise of social media usage over the past few years. As social media is very loosely censored, many posts that are not completely accurate fall into the hands of users, most of whom do not fact check with credible sources. I had noticed this trend before, but it was not until the pandemic sparking a sudden fear inside people that I witnessed just how much we, as a society, rely on social media as a source for important information. During the first lockdown last year, I noticed this with many older people following videos and messages they were forwarded on WhatsApp, almost all of which contained incorrect information regarding COVID-19. If it was not about creating a tea made of a concoction of different ingredients that would somehow prevent the drinker from contracting coronavirus, it was a very poorly written paragraph of incorrect statistics regarding cases.

Now, I am noticing a similar trend with the younger generation on TikTok where seemingly ambiguous videos of allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine are going viral, inciting fear in the viewers of the video to declare they are never going to get the vaccine. Most of the consumers on the app are teenagers who have admitted to not being bothered enough to look further and do their own research, rather preferring to rely on poorly explained 15-second videos as their source for information.

One particular TikTok that did not sit right with me is of a woman who had recently gotten Botox, showing her face swell up while in an ambulance only minutes after receiving the vaccine. What she failed to mention in the video was that similar side effects of the vaccine on people that have gotten Botox were already identified by the Centers for Disease Control. Videos like these feed off of the lack of awareness of most young consumers, resulting in the creation of misinformation about the safety of the vaccine. As a content creator, it is important to only post videos that are explicitly clear, keeping in mind the assumption that everyone viewing the content is using that as a sole source. As a consumer, it is vital to look into information through a credible source, as many videos on social media can be misleading.

As a content creator, it is important to only post videos that are explicitly clear, keeping in mind the assumption that everyone viewing the content is using that as a sole source.

As a young Muslim woman, I find solace in the words of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) where he said, “Truth saves, falsehood destroys.” This saying, although obvious, holds much wisdom in every situation, thus being applicable to the one at hand. Circulating false information harms people much more than no information at all. It destroys their wellbeing, weakens their trust in institutions, and misguides them off of the correct path that would solve the issues they are faced with. A variation from the truth offers nothing but pain and fear in other people.

Although social media and the circulation of unclear information plays a major role in mistrust of the vaccine, other factors also play into this. For instance, the delays in vaccine distribution and issues with how corporations are handling the vaccine are a few other contributors to this mistrust. With the intention to be a future health care provider, I cannot help but worry about the state of health care in the U.S. and how I can be a good practitioner if those I am meant to help cannot even trust me or the science that links us together. It is only with the circulation of correct, dependable information and trust in science and health care providers that we can all unify as one and overcome this pandemic with the least number of lives lost. It is never too late to take control and fight back a virus that has taken over much of the world.