This post was written by Erin Meyers.
Social media apps are a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, as well as to the larger community, during social distancing. There are a wide range of social media apps available to fit many different needs, and are easy for even a brand new user to download and use. These apps are free, but each has its own set of privacy settings that will allow advertising and/or data tracking. You can often look in the settings of the app for some controls over how your information is shared. Additionally, some apps only work on phones, and others on computers. Check the app listing on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for specifics.
You may already be using some of the most popular social media apps, like Facebook. This is a great time to reach out to friends or contacts you already have but perhaps have not talked to in a while. Send a message to an old neighbor or friend from high school just to say hi.
Try a new app. If you are used to texting with friends and family, try out a video-based text (like Marco Polo) that lets you send individual or group video messages to your contacts. These apps let you hear and see your loved ones, not just read messages. Scheduling video calls through apps like Zoom, Skype, House Party, or Google Hangouts lets you engage in real time with your friends and family.
Netflix has gotten social by adding a new feature called “Netflix Party” that offers synchronized video playback and a chat feature so that you and your friends can enjoy a favorite movie together. You must use your computer and a Chrome browser to download this feature, and have a Netflix subscription.
Social media can also connect you to area resources. Oakland County has a Twitter feed (@OakGov) and many towns also have Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram pages where they share useful news and resources to help residents stay informed. State agencies, like the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (@MichiganLEO) and the Michigan Health and Human Services Department (@MichiganHHS and @MIPrepares) are also using social media to keep Michiganders informed during the pandemic.
Be Smart About Sharing
Social media does have a dark side, and misinformation can and does easily spread through these platforms. Many of the platforms are recognizing this problem and taking some steps to help users distinguish facts from fake news, including taking down false or sensationalist content and redirecting searches to links to verified information sources.
But, as users, we can also be more mindful of the information we seek and share and help stop the spread of bad information. In general, think before you share! Here are some quick tips for evaluating social media information about coronavirus:
- Check your source. Those stories from “my aunt’s colleague” or “a friend of a friend” are a big red flag. Look for verified sources, like public health agencies or reputable news sources.
- Ask yourself: could it be fake? Some scammers are pretending to be official government or news accounts. If it looks suspicious, it probably is! Watch for misspellings or mismatched fonts or strange looking links. It’s always a good idea to check the official site of a trusted public body first to verify that what you received is, in fact, from that source.
- Look to official sources to check facts. Is the health advice being offered backed up on verified channels?
- Think about biases. Are you sharing because you agree or because you know a piece of information is true? Look into it before you share it.
- Don’t share information if you are unsure if it is true. Keep the misinformation from spreading any further.