Responding To COVID-19 In an Age of Misinformation

We live in an unusual period of time. Instead of struggling to access the information that we are looking for, we are overwhelmed by informational sources. When responding to an ongoing situation, such as COVID-19, a critical skill is being able to determine the validity of a source.

It’s important to remember that news media is a business. Their job is to engage consumers and to keep them engaged. While a reputable news source will not publish false information, they will add their perspective to the information that they have gathered. They will also link that information to other news stories to further engage the consumer. In the case of COVID-19, economics and politics have become intertwined with this ongoing health crisis. For these reasons, getting advice from the news may not be the most reliable source of information about what a person should do about COVID-19.

Living in Calgary, there are two sources that appear to be the most reliable. https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/topics/Page16944.aspx is an Alberta Health Services page that provides information about the coronavirus and information about what to do about the coronavirus. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html is a Government of Canada page that contains similar information to that found on the AHS website, but has a more global and national focus.

One of the things about people is that we’re not especially good at remembering where we heard a particular piece of information, or even if the source was reputable. At times like these, it’s important for all of us to pay careful to attention to where we’re getting our information and the motivations of those providing it to us.

Dave Ponak is a psychologist working in the Kensington neighbourhood of Calgary.

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