The Infodemic vs. the Pandemic

Over a year into the pandemic, we’re still dealing with a parallel infodemic. The infodemic is the spread of misinformation and disinformation about the pandemic. The misleading, or incorrect, information can be found on social media, TV, newspapers, etc. It can come from professional sources or from regular people.

I blogged about it in Misinformation in the Time of the Pandemic. I made suggestions for improving it in Librarians: The Disinformation Antidote. The infodemic is problematic for many reasons. This pandemic is a scary time for most people. For the last eighteen+ months, we’ve been living our lives according to restrictions, lockdowns, and new protocols. Having up-to-date and accurate information is critical for us to make decisions. Sifting through lots of information, some of which is incorrect, makes this process even more challenging. It’s hard to know who to trust, what to trust, and when to trust. Things change so quickly.

In addition to dealing with all the information (misinformation and disinformation) about the pandemic, we’re also learning about the vaccines. It’s all a lot to take in and absorb. At this point, I’ve known several people who got sick with Covid, and one death. The reality of Covid and the pandemic lives with us, yet we still struggle to get good quality information. Over a year into the pandemic, we’re sifting constantly through a never-ending supply of headlines, sensational stories, lies, truths, inaccuracies, and some trustworthy accurate stuff.

Added to all the misinformation and disinformation are data gaps. There are still some things we just don’t know yet. This is either because the data hasn’t been collected yet or not enough time has passed. For example, how common are breakthrough infections? How easily can someone with a breakthrough infection spread it to someone unvaccinated? How often does a breakthrough infection spread to another vaccinated or unvaccinated person?

In my mind, the infodemic will have more lasting consequences than the actual pandemic. Though it seems that Covid is here to stay, we’ll always be reading, learning, or experiencing it in one form or another. Should the day ever come when we can once again gather, unmasked in large numbers, I wonder how we’ll think about this time. And what resources we will have to rely on.

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