Keep Your Social Media Distance

This is the best of times to be on social media.

This is the worst of times to be on social media.

If that sounds Dickensian, why not? We’re all living a tale of two realities.

There’s the harsh, scientific reality of an outrageous contagious virus, the likes of which, so we’re told, has not visited us in more than a century — since the serial killing influenza pandemic of 1918 that claimed 50 million souls worldwide.

There too is the alternate reality of how people perceive, react to, and share information on social media about the novel coronavirus. There are times that the posted comment is backed up, by citing — and even linking to — the ultimate authority on the subject… the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s clearly the rare exception, though.

More often than not, there are anecdotal theories, rumors and opinions bandied about, with no evidence or source material behind them, other than perhaps the two most dangerous and suspect words that appear on social media — “I heard…” 

Heard from whom? And from whom did they hear it? You know what they say about hearsay — it’s worth the paper it’s written on.

This Google Doodle effectively conveys the concept of social distancing that has become a household word since it was coined by the World Health Organization to staunch the spread of the coronavirus contagion.

That kind of free-floating, fact-or-fiction folderol can prove more toxic than a well-meaning commenter realizes. One such commenter I came across “heard” that a restaurant worker tested positive, which led the commenter to encourage everyone not to order take-out — from anywhere. If that sounds irrational, remember we’re talking social media here.

Robbed of the freedom to congregate as we normally would, it makes perfect sense to congregate virtually via social media. As our governor said, “Be socially distanced, but spiritually connected.” I heard that (and just so I practice what I preach, here’s the source: Governor,  

It also makes sense to keep your social media distance by not accepting without question anything you read on those fun-filled pages that isn’t certifiable, with a trusted source attached to it. 

As I was researching this column, one social media local I happened across had written, “Is it just me, or has Facebook created a slew of Covid professionals?” 

The answer is “No,” but it has created a slew of Covid commenters without portfolio. 

So while we’re hibernating off-season, let’s all enjoy connecting and corresponding and communing to our heart’s content. It’s the social thing to do. 

Just do yourself a favor by keeping your distance from “I heard…” and keeping close to verifiable facts.

Bruce Apar is Editor + Associate Publisher of River Journal North.

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About the Author: Bruce Apar