Column: Separating pandemic information from misinformation

Opening Our Eyes by Nan Dickie

If we follow any source of media whatsoever these days – be it in print or video – we are inundated daily by new information about this pandemic.

Unfortunately, mixed in with factual information, there is sometimes misinformation, out-of-date information, and even outright lies and conspiracies.

Social media is the perfect environment for anyone to promote his or her or their perspective, whether it makes sense or not. Unfortunately, social media often magnifies misinformation, and it catches fire.

We are motivated to find out what we can about the pandemic out of our communal need to know how to best face it. In fact, our demand to know seems to increase as time goes on. This is understandable, given the alarming increase in COVID-19 cases, and the uncertainty as to the virus’s future course.

Some people, driven by fear, will grab whatever information they can, and will believe anything they see or hear. This can lead to paranoia and unwise decision-making.

There are all sorts of people, companies and politicians that would like us to believe that only they have the truth. Given the proliferation of a wide-range of information and misinformation at our finger-tips, what and who are we to believe?

Read more: Column: COVID-19 conspiracy of dunces

Read more: Misinformation online plays role in COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy: Tam

We must be discerning in how and where we seek out information, and in assessing what we are presented with. This is, in fact, our responsibility. It is wise to consult sources that we have found to be reliable in the past.

We need to be responsible consumers of information, and oppose what we hear or read that is blatantly untrue.

Misinformation becomes increasingly harmful to individuals and entire communities if it is left to fester, which is why we each have a role in stopping it.

We need to look at the original source of the information we hear or read. Is it reliable, or does it come from a source that has a profit motive, such as selling a product?

Does the supposed information come from a politician who has vested interests in being re-elected? (Some politicians have been known to lie.)

Did we hear about it from someone famous who has no scientific or health-related credibility?

We must be aware that there may be both truth and lies in what we read or hear. Parts of what is conveyed may be true, some of it may be gossip, and some may be taken totally out of context. Some of it is just noise.

Sometimes there are glaring information gaps that we might feel compelled, unwisely, to fill.

We need to trust evidence-based science. Good, scientific research better equips us for the battle against scientific bunk.

Let us be continually well-informed so that we make wise decisions for ourselves and help lead the way forward with truth, not innuendo.

Nan Dickie is a local author, speaker and former facilitator of a Salmon Arm depression support

group.

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