The power of the social media community in the time of COVID-19 pandemic

Originally published in Sunday Business & IT on March 22, 2020

How is everybody doing in the time of the Luzon lockdown or community quarantine in your province? Much as I want to help in the frontlines, I am within the high risk category that is strongly advised to stay at home. No matter the age or our abilities, we all have something to contribute in our battle against the the coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic during a lockdown or community quarantine.

I have heard advice that we must also observe social distancing in social media. While there are several activities we could do at home, we could harness social media for good.

In this time of anxiety and uncertainty, we need someone to talk to or connect with through support systems. Even sharing creative moments or memes through #QuaratineLife and #StayatHomeChallenge hashtags cheered some netizens. Making fun of toilet paper is driving people to laugh despite the anxiety. My daughter asked her Twitter followers to post photos of their kitchen experiments since many are spending lots of time at home. Considering most restaurants are closed, netizens in Metro Manila shared contact details of food delivery, including GrabFood and FoodPanda.

Natalie Barnes, “We are Social” interim head of editorial, shared a bulletin on how social media gives the true support system in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. Social media is a valuable tool in getting important information out and in connecting and helping communities around the world. A study from “Obviously,” an influencer agency, showed a 22-percent increase in Instagram campaign impressions from Q4 2019 to Q1 2020, and a 27-percent jump in engagement on average on TikTok from February to March. Lizzo, with her 8.4 million Instagram followers, started a meditation to “promote healing during this global crisis.” Urging her fans to be safe and responsible, she adds, “We can’t be afraid of each other, so that means we have to be doing the right things to be safe: face masks, washing hands… So, we’re going to take all of this fear and transmute it into love.” Having light moments on social media is a respite from the sad reality of confirmed cases all over the world.

Image via Prachatai on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

I’ve seen overwhelming support for those who are vulnerable, the healthcare workers and the local communities and homeless families during the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon. The hashtag #ProtectTheFrontline is a call to help our health workers on the frontline of the Covid-19. Journalists from various news organizations met online to suggest common hashtags such as #Covid19PH (Philippines news about Covid-19); #coronavirus (information about the virus); #Covid19Quarantine (updates on areas under quarantine); #ReliefPH + #Covid19PH (relief operations and donations) and #LuzonLockdown (updates on the enhanced community quarantine for Luzon). Now that many are working at home, netizens are keenly watching out the work of their respective local government units (LGU) and debunking false claims of trolls. One LGU example is the Twitter support for Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto through hashtags #ProtectVico and #Vivico. A twitter user noticed that “Vico Sotto is the prime example of what a government should do. I couldn’t believe we’re so deprived of good governance to the point that we’re praising someone doing stuff that’s literally part of their job description.”

Aside from sharing information on LGU news, proper hygiene and verified health advice, observing proper hygiene and debunking misinformation, we could also support our healthcare workers or help ease the difficulties of those whose lives have been affected by the ongoing lockdown. The website flipscience.ph curated a list of local fundraisers and donation drives you could support, organized by beneficiary and sector: 1) for medical professionals and health workers; 2) for scientists involved in Covid-19 testing and 3) for workers, families, and communities in need of material assistance.

Together with Rock Ed Philippines, Doc Gia Baquiran Sison, Gang Badoy Capati, Rosario Juan and other generous individuals, they carry out efforts to provide healthcare workers with nourishing meals using hashtags #RockEdRelief and #FrontlineFeedersPH. And if you are still restless, chatterpack.net gives a list of free, online, boredom-busting resources such as virtual tours, online learning, geography and nature, music, arts and culture, literature online, entertainment, mental health, and prayers resources. Scribd’s digital library is free for the next 30-days through a special link (scr.bi/ReadFree). No credit card or subscription commitment required. Our virtual neighborhood extends to closed spaces where we share these tidbits of information.

Social media efforts are very inspiring as these enable us to protect and preserve the spirit of community in the time of the Covid-19. “By harnessing it openly and authentically, we can create global networks of inspiration, support, empathy and kindness — values that bring us as close together as possible,” Barnes concluded. I am thankful for the bayanihan spirit in my virtual neighborhood.

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