The coronavirus pandemic creates a particular challenge regarding how we stay informed.
This is, on a global level, a complete unknown. Yesterday’s news might not be relevant today, and it’s easy to get lost in a torrent of granular details, medical lingo and hypothesizing.
That’s why, especially now, it’s important that we avoid misinformation.
Finding and sharing articles about the coronavirus makes us feel responsible, informed, maybe a little bit safer. The problem is, not all articles are created equal.
Sorting through the noise
Sophie Haylock, the director of Early Years HR and the owner of a day nursery in Surrey, England, has spent a lot of her time this week debunking misconceptions about the virus and the government’s response.
“What I’m seeing, with absolutely good intentions, is a lot of misinformation being put out there. It could be yesterday’s information, it could be people giving their own interpretations of the news, it could be a misleading source,” Sophie says. “Honestly, your Facebook news feed is not the place to find out what you should be paying your staff right now.”
Official sources for official business
If you’re looking for the latest, most authoritative information on how the coronavirus will affect your setting, look to government sources. The official gov.uk website as well as the NHS both have set up dedicated coronavirus information portals, where you can find both general guides for planning your response, as well as news briefs as events unfold.
Again, be sure to check when an article was published or last updated.
- Here’s the gov.uk general portal for protecting yourself and seeking medical advice, updates on the spread of the disease, and information for employers, businesses and teachers.
- Here’s the gov.uk page specifically addressing how the government is providing support for businesses, and how you can get help during this time.
- Here’s the gov.uk news feed for all the latest press releases, sorted by how recently they’ve been published. You can use this for a general look into all public government responses to the pandemic.
- Here is the NHS’ dedicated covid-19 page for how you can protect yourself and those around you against the virus, and what to do in terms of medical and safety precautions.
Personal networks for personal support
As we all deal with the strange new reality of social distancing, we’ve got to find ways to keep in touch. Luckily, we’ve got the internet for that. And if you’re reading this, you’ve already sorted out how to use it. Great work!
FaceTime your friends, Skype your dear aunt, arrange a book club or happy hour via a Facebook group. These informal, personal networks are critical for our own well-being, and for staying connected during these strange times.
The trouble is, you’re also going to come across a lot of misinformation on social media. Again, think of the source of any information you’re reading — If you’re seeing it first in a Facebook comment, take it with a grain of salt.
If you’re confused and are reaching out to friends on Facebook for business advice, be very careful. Keep in mind that everyone’s just about as confused as you are right now — and nobody, as far as business is concerned, is in the exact same position. Different settings might have different amounts of government funding, different insurance, different cash reserves, different contingency plans. Without knowing the full picture, you can’t assume that their advice is going to work for you too.
For now, it’s best you stick to social networks for their social benefits — not as news aggregators or business think tanks. Last week, the Atlantic put out a great article with some ideas on how you can use the internet to keep company while social distancing.
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