Blogging and social media in times of coronavirus pandemic

As a media/ social media watcher and blogger, I have some insights to share on both these areas in the midst of coronavirus epidemic. Experts of media research organizations will definitely make a detailed study when the epidemic is over, and we will then learn many more things. For now, let's see what is happening now:

SOCIAL NETWORKING BOOMS AS CORONA VIRUS SPREADS ACROSS THE GLOBE


  • As expected, social networking and chat platforms are agog with advisories and updates. Almost everybody seems to be sharing them, making them go viral. The top trends (in fact, on some days, all the trends) on social media platforms are on corona virus.
  • By format, besides text, images and videos, other formats are being used to spread information. These include animations, live dashboard/ graphs/ maps and infographics. Liveblogs are seen on websites of media and other organizations.
  • A large number of fake stories are in circulation. In some countries, people have also been booked for misleading messages. Also circulating are doomsday scenarios and supposed predictions made many years back. Religious scriptures are quoted with meanings suiting the present situation. Conspiracy theories have been floated and made virulent by highly opinionated people, blaming spy agencies of super-powers or Chinese biological warfare lab for coronavirus origin and spread. People (and agencies?) are working overtime to use this to spread hatred against specific ethnicitiess, religions, cultures and people with special eating habits.
  • US President Trump has added controversy to the discussion by calling the virus as 'Chinese virus' rather than COVID-19 or coronavirus.
  • Heads of many nations and international organizations, especially WHO, have come out with messages, assurances and appeals.
  • Indian Prime Minister Modi has taken a lead, besides holding a video conference with SAARC heads of state, in spreading messages on social media. He incessantly puts messages on his social media accounts, in the form of advisories and appeal. He also shares others' messages and publicly appreciates good work being done by public figures and common citizens.
  • Besides authentic advisories, traditional cures are being suggested. Even chanting of prayers has been recommended by a few religious leaders.
  • There are reports and I have personally observed that people are getting impacted emotinally due to excessive updations on social media. Situations of panic have arisen even in countries not too badly affected by the epidemic so far, when fake news claiming complete lockdown by government, people dying in hordes, daily need provisions and masks not being available in shops, etc are spread on social apps. 
  • The group supposed to be vulnerable, e.g. very old people and those with respiratory issues, must be under tremendous stress, which is aggravated by repeated messages and information on television channels and social media focused on them. 
  • Mental/ emotional issue are likely to rise as there are more and more lockdowns and 'work from home' - resulting in more time spent on television/ online media/ social media. Some of my colleagues have reported elevated hypertension and anxiety.
  • There is a preliminary report that watching and download of porn content has spiked in some regions.
  • Social media giants are supporting governmental and societal actions by spreading correct information and advisories. They have also come out with technological solutions such as chat bots. However they are found badly wanting when it comes to removing fake news and advisories.
  • Social media is also helping governments, health agencies and various service providers in reaching people with correct information, tips and support. Without social media, it would not have been possible to reach the nook and corner of the globe, so fast and so exhaustively.

Coronavirus, blogging and social media impact

BLOGGING LOSES BADLY, ESPECIALLY PROFESSIONAL BLOGGING, BLOGGING FOR MAKING MONEY 


  • Television, news websites and social media have left hardly any space for blogging on the coronavirus epidemic. Big news blogs, of course, are a class apart.
  • Many organizations have opened liveblogs on the epidemic. These liveblogs are doing a good job in updating visitors with correct advisories and updates.
  • Some world organizations and governments have chosen to use their blog as the primary source of information on corona virus, which they cross-post on social media.

Talking of how the epidemic has impacted blogging,

  • Professional blogs have suffered badly, especially blogs that make money for the blogger. There are reports of a UK blogger couple who had started a food outlet after success in blogging had to close the outlet even as the established restaurants somehow managed to survive. A blogger in India who gives regular updates on his earnings and traffic has shared that the traffic and clicks on his blog have declined to near-zero. This must be happening to all bloggers, in all niches.
  • By common logic, travel bloggers must have suffered the most, and also those in the fields of fashion and beauty blogging and finance blogging.
  • It appears that book review blogs, health and fitness blogs and some types of finance blogs would be getting more traffic. 
  • On some Facebook groups on blogging, I found small bloggers looking for cheap hosting plans and asking for help as their blogs have been hit with low traffic. There are plenty who have come out with assurances but they would not disclose their terms except on 'ib' (=personal inbox).
  • On YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Helo and SharChat (the ones I tracked for a while), hundreds of small bloggers have posted videos with advisories on corona virus. I browsed many of them in English and Indian languages (specifically Hindi, Nepali, Marathi, Gujarati, Bangla) and found them (especially on local video-sharing apps) copied from other sources and with wrong information. Some of them are propagating outright harmful remedies and spreading rumors. They have many followers and they make these videos with local touch - that makes the videos more potent in spreading misinformation.
I intend to do my own research over time and also follow what institutional researchers find on how corona virus epidemic impacted blogging and social media and the other way round. I will sure update you on this in about 3 months from now.

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