The other pandemic threatening our health: online misinformation – Sydney Morning Herald

Posted: August 25, 2021 at 1:44 am

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There are two pandemics happening right now, a medical one and an information one. Both wildly destructive to our health.

We have been inundated with a massive wave of information since the Delta outbreak in Sydney began. Every intricacy about each vaccine, stay-at-home orders for every region, government grants. The next day more explosive intricacies and details about the vaccine, new stay-at-home orders, new government grant analysis.

Information overload is becoming dangerous.Credit:Istock

Then we have every person weighing in on all of this on social media. About 6000 tweets are posted onto Twitter every second. Thats 350,000 tweets a minute or 500 million tweets a day. COVID NSW has been trending for weeks, full of tweets devoted to giving us even more information, opinions, criticisms about COVID-19. The same thing is happening on Facebook, Reddit, WhatsApp, websites and blogs. The list goes on and on.

We are mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted from information overload. The problem is that that exhaustion can encourage us to step out of the mainstream news and seek out simpler information and solutions. Ive been told multiple times by friends and colleagues lately that they have stopped listening to The News, stating that its too much and that theyre losing hope.

Hello misinformation, fake news and conspiracy theories! Posts on WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook present extreme yet easy to understand solutions. Such posts are everywhere and because we are information-tired they are becoming our quick-fix, go-to place to keep up to date.

Think of the information landscape as a layered cake. The bottom layer is the real and fact-based information that we find on the Service NSW website or from reputable news platforms. This, however, is squashed by layers and layers of opinions, conspiracy theories, unfounded information and lies that enter our field of vision every time we go online. Its appealing because it is easy to understand, theres not too much detail and it is written to convince us.


The problem is all this content sits alongside each other when we see it online, and its difficult to differentiate one layer from the other. We are highly vulnerable right now, our faith in authorities is waning and, as a result, we can make some poor decisions based on unfounded, non-fact-based content.

Ive been studying our engagement with technology for over 15 years and I see our digital lifestyle much more clearly than I ever have. With all the good that technology offers, the information-overload/misinformation nexus is a defining feature of the digital age, and we have to shape our practices so that we stay healthy despite this. By we, I mean us as individuals, but also the government and other places we need to get the facts from.

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The other pandemic threatening our health: online misinformation - Sydney Morning Herald

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August 25th, 2021 at 1:44 am

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