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The Effects Of Social Media In Educating The Public On The Corona Virus Pandemic

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ABSTRACT

The study is on “The effects of social media in educating the public on the corona virus pandemic”. The study has four objectives and four research questions. Survey research design was used for the study. The population was 1,401,873 and the sample size was 400. Taro Yamanne (1969) statistical formula was used to determine the sample. Questionnaire was used for collection of data while simple percentage and frequency counts table was used to analyse the research questions. The findings show that members of the public conclude that many of these false messages are authentic and reliable. Indeed, social media on the one hand is a good tool for dissemination of knowledge while on the other hand, it could be destructive, and divisive when it falls to the hands of mischief makers. Social media platforms are prompt and efficient in keeping up with dialogues surrounding the pandemic and this is not restricted to Nigeria alone. The study therefore recommended among others that online newspapers should adopt the operation model of the conventional newspaper. Stories should write to perfection, subjected to the rigorous scrutiny of the head of the reporter’s desk, checked again by the news editor and his team with a strong re-write desk ensuring that the story conforms to a house style; and then a final check by the editor of the paper. Running a newspaper requires a huge capital outlay which makes publishers are reporters susceptible to moneybags looking for where to plant stories that would further their interest, online newspaper practitioners should rather rely on international donor agencies which support independent media organizations which funds to enable them better hold the government accountable to the people. Online newspapers must not base their reports on rumors spread on the social media.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1     BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Over the years, social media has become an active technological tool in Nigeria; as well as a news and communication channel for the citizenry of Nigeria. Access to mobile telephony especially among the technologically savvy youths has made dissemination of information easy with a snap of the finger. In recent times, as the pandemic encroaches on and emasculates world activities, social media platforms have been utilized as an information outlet to citizens. Its significance has gained more recognition owing especially to the fact that the government implemented a lockdown policy to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Thus, it has become an active tool for engagement and communication for the dissemination of plausible information as well as incredulous (mis)information.

There is a growing body of literature on social media. A critical analysis shows change and continuity in communication and information technology. Let’s examine below some of the issues. Social Media is an offshoot of the Internet and according to DiMaggio et al. (2001, p. 307), the Internet refers to the electronic network or networks that link(s) people and information through computers and other digital devices; thereby allowing for person-to-person communication and information retrieval. The Internet is a major tool that emerged for the purpose of information dissemination; thus, the media acts as an information hegemon in terms of determining what information is made available to people as well as the impression people have on issues (Savrum & Leon, 2015). Largely, Social Media is the collection of websites and web-based systems that allow for mass interaction, conversation and sharing among members of a network (Murphy, 2013, p. 3). These diverse media outlets and communication networks played an important role in facilitating uprisings such as the Arab spring (AlSayyad & Guvenc, 2015, p. 2025). Its power lies in live pictures conveyed by video recording of events as it unfolds. The international livestreaming of events is capable of mobilizing a huge population of citizenry for positive or negative end. More so, it has played an important role in crippling dictatorial regimes. Unfortunately, these various outlets have been abused as unscrupulous people hide under its anonymity to defraud or relay false information. As the importance of social media is not lost on the general public for information engagement, its abuse in Nigeria especially during this emergency period is neither lost on any keen observer. Consequently, its advantages and disadvantages are highlighted in this paper.

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The Coronavirus (Covid-19) is an infectious disease causes respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe respiratory difficulties. It originated from the Hunan seafood market at Wuhan, China where live bats, snakes, raccoon dogs, wild animals among others were sold in December 2019 (Shereen et al., 2020, pp. 91–98) and was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020 (WHO, 2020). Since its identification, the virus is said to have accounted for about 512,311 deaths globally out of a swooping statistic of 10,514,028 positive cases which sadly increases exponentially daily (WHO, 2020). The first victim of the virus in Nigeria was an Italian man who arrived in the country on the 25 February 2020. He was admitted to an Isolation Centre in Yaba Lagos after showing symptoms of the virus (NCDC 2020). Subsequently, the cases increased and, as at the time of this paper, almost 28,711 positive cases and 11,665 recuperated persons have been identified (NCDC, 2020).

Noticeably, Nigeria is trying to curb the rapid spread of Covid-19 through immediate lockdown of the major epicenters of Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja: commercial and administrative hubs of the country; where there have been spike of coronavirus cases. Some state governors have also taken proactive actions by closing their “borders” in a bid to curtail the spread of the virus. Other measures include prohibition of mass gathering of people at churches, sports arenas and burials while schools were closed nationwide. The achievement of these feats can be attributed not just to proper healthcare facilities but also to the impacts of social media in the country. Its platforms: WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have become varying means of communication and engagement by not just the government but by the general populace. Contrarily, social media is also utilized as a means of propaganda in disclosing news and information, which at most are based on assumptions and speculations. On this note, this paper intends to interrogate the use of social media as a tool for the good, the bad and the ugly.

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1.2     STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

In times like the corona virus pandemic, information becomes very important especially, as everybody is scared of contracting the virus and the traditional media has been forced to shut down or apply caution i  As the corona virus – or to be precise Covid-19 – spreads around the n discharging their duties; it became paramount to utilize another medium for information dissemination.

As the pandemic spreads and disrupt human activities across the world, getting accurate information about the disease becomes ever more important. And in the social media age, that puts a heavy responsibility on the likes of Facebook and Twitter. These are the platforms that billions now rely on for news and they are already providing fertile territory for those wanting to spread misinformation. On Facebook, it is in groups opposing vaccines and those campaigning against 5G mobile phone networks that scare stories appear most likely to take hold.

A research on a number of the 5G groups, shows that plenty of comments suggesting there is a link between the virus and the new networks. The Stop 5G UK group has more than 27,000 members, one of whom has posted this: “I’ve heard it’s not a serious “Virus”, it’s about as bad as a flu or cold. So really this is a perfect plan to cover up EMF/5G related illnesses.” Others have shared links to websites and videos connecting the coronavirus to the rollout of 5G in the part of China where it originated.

Another popular theory is that the virus was engineered in a lab and deliberately released by, take your pick, the Chinese or American government. Over on the Facebook 5G and microwave radiation group, an article from Technocracy News claims: “It is becoming pretty clear that the Hunan corona virus is an engineered bio-weapon that was either purposely or accidentally released.”

Sequel to the above, it became imperative to study and ascertain how effectively the social media was able to communicate accurate information to the masses and its effect in educating them on the novel corona virus pandemic.

1.3     OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The main objective of this research work is to examine the effects of social media in educating the public on the corona virus pandemic, but its specific objectives include the following;

  1. To find out which social media platform was used most frequently as a channel for the dissemination of news about the Corona virus pandemic.
  2. To determine the perception of audience concerning the news on social media about Corona virus.
  3. To determine the effects of social media education about Corona virus on residents.
  4. To recommend measures to be adopted in curtailing the spread of fake news on social media.
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1.4     RESEARCH QUESTIONS

From the objectives, the researcher was able to extract these questions. The research questions will serve as a base to the researcher in preparing her questionnaire for collection of data.

  1. Which social media platform was mostly used as a channel for the dissemination of corona virus news?
  2. How do Owerri residents perceive the frequent use of social media in disseminating news about Corona virus?
  3. What effect does the use of social media in educating about Corona virus have on residents?
  4. What possible measures could be adopted in curtailing the use of social media in spreading fake news?
    • SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

The research will be beneficial to media practitioners They would get to know why they should rely on credible sources of information rather than embellishing what a user posted on the social media as story for their readers. This study would help readers know the difference between the social media and online newspapers so that the intemperance of the one would no longer mar the other.

Also, the research will add to existing literature for students and scholars who will be carrying out similar studies. It will finally be of importance to online media practitioner in Owerri, so as to enable them up their games and understand the danger in fake news and rumors.

1.6        SCOPE OF THE STUDY

This study is centered on examining the effects of social media in educating the masses in Owerri about the corona virus pandemic. The research will be centered on residents in Owerri metropolis and they will serve as the researchers population.

1.7     OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS.

PERCEPTION: This refers to how the residence of Owerri sees and reacts to the news content about the corona virus on social media.

SOCIAL MEDIA: This is an online interaction platform for dissemination of messages, videos, podcast and images, which Owerri residents rely on most times for information AND education.

CORONA VIRUS: This is a disease that affects the lungs and caused difficulty in breathing which might lead to death. The Corona Virus started in China in 2019 and has spread to almost all part of the world. Its presence in Nigeria has caused fear among citizens, especially, those in Owerri.

COVID 19: This is an acronym for the pandemic, it means; Corona Virus 2019.


Pages:  62

Category: Project     

Format:  Word & PDF        

Chapters: 1-5                                 

Material contains Table of Content, Abstract and References.

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