Harnessing the benefits of Social Media in the Fight against the Second Wave of Covid-19 in India.
The Covid 19 pandemic knocked in India in March 2020, but we could manage the losses as well the virus with a lot of precautions, government help and participation of people. However while we started unlocking and celebrating after the first wave, the second wave with the new mutant of the virus has struck us in a very big way. This second wave has definitely caught everyone with surprise due to increased rate of number of cases and number of deaths. In addition, the requirement of oxygen, ICU beds and drugs/plasma also rose exponentially far in excess of government and private resources. Thus the common people felt the need to rise to this occasion, forming groups and providing oxygen cylinders, plasma, food etc. contributing in every way possible. Social media was the main source for people to procure and provide information to others.
Given are my observations over the period of 8 days (7th May- 14th May) about the COVID-19 related information on mainly three social media platforms; Twitter, WhatsApp and Telegram. It reflects the volume, trend, categories of the messages pouring in all of the social media platforms.
The messages were broadly categorised as Oxygen emergencies (inquiries about ventilators, oxygen beds and the availability of these), Plasma donors and their requirements, Covid resources (mainly containing any leads/help), #FightagainstCovid which includes any and all messages related to Covid recoveries, fundraising, donations, programmes with Covid information, management systems, mental health resources and in general messages spreading positivity.
- The bar graph below depicts the range and categories of tweets.
• The pie chart depicts the percentage of messages in each category out of a total of 22,000 tweets in 8 days.
WhatsApp and Telegram:
During the period of my observation, I was also a part of a WhatsApp group circulating Covid relating information and a few similar groups on telegram.
• The bar graph below depicts the range and categories of messages circulated on WhatsApp.
- The pie chart below depicts the percentage of messages in each category out of a total of 510 messages in 8 days on WhatsApp.
- The Pie chart given below depicts the percentage of messages in each category out of a total of 300 messages circulated on the telegram group in 8 days.
• Thus, amongst all the information and messages circulated within these 8 days, the categorisation was mainly into: Oxygen emergencies and beds, Plasma donors and requirements, medicines, food resources, home nurses, Covid tests at home, ambulances, doctors, mental health resources, crowdfunding, donations, maternity homes, kennel homes, etc.
• It can be inferred that Twitter is the social media platform providing significantly large number of messages and resources. Thus majority of the people use Twitter to air their views publicly resulting in significantly greater number of messages. Verified account holders also repost tweets on their Instagram/Facebook handle in order to support and help their followers by providing authentic information.
However, the WhatsApp and telegram groups were decentralised (mostly catering to local area / suburbs), considering the possibility of getting immediate help resources in their locality.
• Also, overall on all three platforms the need for oxygen cylinders/beds and ICU beds was the highest. Then was the need for plasma donations. But the number of leads and resources are equally high.
• This learning would help the government to augment the facilities and infrastructure in near future.