Updated: Jan 22, 2021
For many people, the New Year is a symbolic day to celebrate the upcoming year ahead, whether it’s about surviving the ups and downs of the previous year, signifying a change in their old routines, or simply just joining in the fun the day has to offer. Everyone was looking forward to 2020: the start of a new decade, the beginning of a new chapter for the class of 2020, and only a few months shy of impending summer internships. The coming months were well planned out and well prepared for — or so we thought, until it was reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31, 2020, that there was a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. (Archived: WHO Timeline - COVID-19, n.d.)
A flurry of emotions dawned on everyone: some were unsure, others were alarmed, and many didn’t fully grasp the gravity of the situation. At the same time, different news outlets focused their lenses on COVID-19. “In times of isolation, social media become a great way to stay close to people, and to bring them relevant and reliable information” (Arroyo, n.d.). With various social media platforms filled with articles about the identity of the virus and its impact, it has gotten more difficult to tell which sources are credible. This excess of information and false rumors have not only caused panic, but have also led many people to misunderstand the situation, leaving them unable to protect themselves properly.
In the time of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to communicate complex ideas to the public effectively. Countries like South Korea and New Zealand gained media attention and were commended for their efforts to contain the virus. Each took a unique approach, but the common denominators were their reliance on science, working with the experts, and their transparency. (A Timeline of South Korea’s Response to COVID-19, n.d.; Kohlenbach, 2020).
One good example would be the work of New Zealand cartoonist Toby Morris and microbiologist and science communicator Siouxsie Wiles, called A Bumper Selection: The Toby Morris and Siouxsie Wiles COVID-19 Box Set.
The free-to-all informational illustrations, which contained information regarding COVID-19, have been translated in different languages and even used by public health
services all around the world (A Bumper selection: The Toby Morris and Siouxsie Wiles Covid-19 box set, n.d.). The straightforward delivery of valuable information by Wiles, paired with Morris’ attractive and eye-catching illustrations effectively communicated the content, which ranged from the prevalence of the virus, the importance of wearing face masks, and the concept of “bubbles” at a time of the pandemic. It also tackled more complex topics like the gaps in public knowledge about COVID-19 and how the virus affects the body. These infographics have been regularly posted since April 6, 2020, in Siouxsie Wiles’ The Spinoff page, which is a New Zealand online commentary and opinion magazine.
You can see the rest of their content in this link: https://thespinoff.co.nz/author/siouxsie-wiles/
More than ever, we rely on social media and the internet during quarantine to stay informed. However, despite it being one of the few things that could keep us occupied during this time, it is still our responsibility to carefully select the content we consume and produce on these platforms, especially in a time of uncertainty. We should always question if what we read on our screens is true, reliable, and helpful.
Similar to Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris, who utilized the tools they have to efficiently disseminate valuable information that is beneficial not only to public healthcare but to us as a society, we should aim to influence more people to play a part in containing the virus by actively following the measures set by the experts,using social media responsibly, educating ourselves using the information provided by reliable sources, and taking part in initiatives that aim to help spread valuable and reliable information and put an end to this health crisis.