Solving the Pandemic of False Information

Solving the Pandemic of False Information

The pandemic shows that the way we receive information is no longer just a political issue, but also a public health issue.

This pandemic has shown us that when people absorb too much false and artificial information, it puts people’s lives at imminent risk. The spread of COVID-19 has exposed how dangerous false information has become to our safety. Due to this, overexposure of false information should be considered a new public health concern. The problem of misinformation in our society began to take notice during the 2016 election, but the pandemic has lain bare that this type of information may not only influence who we vote for, but that it also has the power to damage our health and even end lives. Fabricated information is largely responsible for why this virus spread so rapidly and why it will continue to spread, thus causing further lives to be lost. If you are reading this and sense that this is an exaggeration, then please ask yourself, during this pandemic how many people have you spoken with who said they read something on the internet or watched a YouTube video stating that the virus is “not that serious”, or “it’s just the flu”, that certain products may cure it, etc. It is my opinion that we all know at least one person who has expressed these beliefs, I personally spoke with more than a few who have. Now, think about how that false information influenced their beliefs and how it put themselves, their families and communities at a higher, unnecessary risk. As a society, the issue of false information can no longer be ignored and after this pandemic ends, we must work diligently to remove the problem of false information from our communities to ensure our safety. School districts and public health advocates must begin educating people about best practices to ensure that accurate and relevant information is being shared. We also must hold our local elected officials who post fabricated information accountable for such actions. Teaching communities how to avoid false information and share information morally and ethically can help increase the betterment of community, our health, and our lives.

In this hyper-information age, schools must begin teaching students the best way to absorb accurate and relevant information. Currently, school systems focus on ramming students with information, but due to the advent of smartphones and social media sites and the overwhelming amount of information they receive on a daily basis schools must begin teaching students how to find correct information and to pinpoint what information is truly important and what information is not. Today, students are growing up with machines in their pocket that continuously communicates false information, conspiracy theories, partisan divisions, toxic media influencers and other types of irrelevant and artificial information. If they do not learn how to better filter this information, then they may be at a high risk later in their lives. For example, if we continue to ignore developing a curriculum in educating youth about the dangers of too much irrelevant and false information and 30 years from now another crisis occurs, imagine that outcome! Think about it, another 30 years of overexposure to false information and substandard content being fed to people on a daily basis, it would be catastrophic. Not developing a curriculum about accessing correct and relevant information can no longer be ignored within our school system. The idea of an education is to become a better citizen and this cannot be accomplished without learning how to find truth and seek knowledge in this hyper digital connected world. Our economy, culture and our humanity can no longer thrive in a world of misinformation. Schools must take notice and they must begin discussions about how to educate youth about the epidemic of fake information.

Public health advocates must educate people about the dangers that result in receiving too much false information and substandard content. For example, to increase community health public health officials must look to prevent, treat and reduce harmful habits such as smoking, drinking, and unhealthy eating. However, if we are absorbing too much misinformation i.e. junk information, does this not affect our psychological health? Of course it does. In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak and even today, people are still ignoring the science behind this pandemic! This is because people are absorbing high levels of junk information and as a result the dangers related to this virus are ignored and can contribute to infection. This is why public health officials and community advocates must develop practices needed to reduce the amount of false information being consumed by the public. They can do this by educating communities about the benefits of limiting their time on the internet and social media, how to identify false information, and how to best access the most accurate information. Municipalities or counties should appoint an “information ambassador” to help ensure that constituents are being taught the importance of accessing factual information. These ambassadors should also promote the importance of obtaining information from legitimate local newspapers and local news websites.

Finally, elected officials must be held responsible if they are contributing to false news to their constituents. Elected officials who purposely develop or take part in a false information campaign should be held accountable and the public should demand their resignation. Currently, false information by local officials is not a significant problem. However, what’s to say that won’t change? Especially since local news and journalism is in danger of becoming a thing of the past. Who will be there to blow the whistle when they develop, share or collaborate with fabricated websites disguised as real news designed to spread misinformation and propaganda (which I have seen pop up here in Union County) Elected officials must do better; false information has become a cancer to our way of life. If our local officials can only hope to win seats by spreading false information, then when exposed, it shows that they are unfit for office and they do not possess the character needed to be in a leadership position. The public must work to remove these individuals and put in place a leader of a higher quality.

The world is complex and messy and during difficult and stressful times it is in our nature to cling to a false sense of security. Artificial and misleading information can provide a false sense of comfort in times of pain and great crises. The truth may be uncomfortable, but finding truth is freeing, and until we are able to rid ourselves of the scourge of fictitious information we will suffer as prisoners who have chained themselves to a false reality. We can no longer sit idly by as false information pollutes our health, our sense of community, our civics, our institutions, and our way of life.

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