How are we using social media?

Roxanne Cohen Silver, PhD:

Research does make it clear that social media is a larger source of misinformation and rumour than we typically get from traditional media. There isn’t anybody who is monitoring and vetting the information for its truthfulness or its veracity. So we need to step back. How are we using social media? Is it for connection, or is it for information gathering?

Purplexed Science: During the early stages of the pandemic, I admittedly relied heavily on Twitter updates. Not necessarily other people’s tweets, but the curated headlines and conversations Twitter itself would group together. The public’s willingness to be informed is directly linked to how the media has chosen to inform.

I found myself deleting several news notifications I’d set up because it was nothing but COVID-19, and I think that can do two things.

Dilute the information, or expose people to more misinformation. Human beings tend to rationalise what they cannot understand and this pandemic has been no different.

People are using social media for connection, but that also comes with information gathering. People feel a need to share what they’ve learnt with others. Often without stopping to fact check, after all, it’s easier to click a button than it is to input a search term into Google and spend half an hour reading up on a topic you may not necessarily understand.

One solution may be integrating a fact checking service within all social media platforms, or a service that allows people to quickly input information and returns them with a concise and clear explanation. Implementing such a service would be costly and time-consuming, so the buck stops with social media and news outlets. They should be held accountable for what is posted and do their due diligence before misinformation is allowed to spread.

There is a new variant of COVID-19 in the UK

On Saturday 19th December, millions of people were thrown into uncertainty when the UK government announced that Christmas was effectively cancelled. Plans to allow people to travel without restrictions for up to five days were scuppered by the emergence of a new variant of the virus.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • The variant is named VUI-202012/01.
  • It was detected by the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium
  • There have been more than 1000 cases so far
  • It’s been detected in at least 60 local authorities within the UK
  • It was first spotted in September but seems to be causing a rise of case across the UK now

According to Public Health England, the new variant is not necessarily more dangerous, although research is currently underway.

SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus and mutations are expected to occur as it replicates. Some variants with changes in the spike protein have already been observed as the virus is intensely sequenced here in the UK and around the world. There is no evidence that the newly-reported variant results in a more severe disease.

Professor Wendy Barclay, head of the department of infectious disease, Imperial College London.

In terms of the vaccine, the mutation that’s caused the new variant has been located in the spike protein — the area targeted by the vaccine. This means it should still be effective. However, more research is being done and we will know more in the coming weeks.


Source: BMJ 2020;371:m4857 (link), Science Focus (link)

4 COVID-19 Expert Quotes

Coronavirus (or COVID-19) has taken the world by storm, and after a frenzied period at the beginning of the year, many countries are seeing a rise in the number of cases. Despite the efforts from scientists and researchers across the globe, there is still no vaccine for the virus. This means society is still relying on social distancing and hygiene measures to limit the spread of the virus.

With the general public unused to this kind of phenomenon, it’s down to the experts to keep us up to date and informed.

Here are 4 Expert COVID-19 quotes… Continue reading “4 COVID-19 Expert Quotes”