Every Dallas-Fort Worth resident is well aware a confirmed case of Ebola is currently in Dallas. Cue panic. The headlines, tweets and Facebook posts came quicker than the actual story itself. What does that say about how we’re using social media in these circumstances? Rather than knowing the full story, we’re quick to share our paranoia and fear about a disease we knew little about until recently.
“Fighting the disease means fighting misconceptions on Twitter and Facebook as well,” said freelance writer Satta Sarmah. Her recent Fast Company article, “Fighting the Endless Spread of Ebola Misinformation on Social Media” is a highly-suggested read.
Craig Manning, Center for Disease Control (CDC) health communications specialist, said the organization is doing its best to put out accurate information. Hopefully providing the information to those concerned will generate the spread of the organization’s public health messages to friends and family, whether or not they’ve been directly affected by Ebola.
So instead of answering medical questions ourselves, we can tweet CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO); these organizations are working to bring us–and our followers–on board with scientific consensus. You can see here how quick they are to respond and keep the conversation going with those concerned about Ebola:
CDC (@CDCgov) will host a Twitter chat today at 4 p.m. ET; CDC experts will answer questions about the US case of Ebola. Use
#CDCchat to participate.
“In situations like these you have two choices: You can refute the rumors one at a time or you can change the information environment with new, accurate scientific information,” Manning said. “When we have gotten the messages out there, it prevents the ability for rumors to thrive.”
In addition to social media being used to communicate the facts, it’s even being used to track Ebola traces and to guess where outbreaks might occur. According to Foreign Policy editorial researcher Simon Engler, epidemiologists are gathering data from diseased neighborhoods and hospitals. They’re using sources like flight data, Twitter mentions, and cellphone location services to track the disease from afar. In addition, researchers are sifting through the fragments of mobile lives to map the spread of an unprecedented outbreak. This is a perfect example of how social media and technology is actually being used effectively instead of inciting panic.
While CDC and WHO are both working to get the right information out there, we can help too. Rumors feed on social media, diluting accurate information and jeopardizing the credibility of these organizations. Here’s what you can do: Tweet your questions to @CDCgov or @WHO, join the CDC Twitter chat today at 4 p.m. ET, share facts on your social networks using #EbolaFacts, #EbolainDallas or just #Ebola.
- Fighting the Endless Spread of Ebola Misinformation on Social Media (Fast Company)
- Can Social Media Help Contain Ebola? (Foreign Policy)
- Putting Ebola’s risks in perspective (WFAA)
- Follow the Ebola discussion on social media (Dallas Morning News)