The journey often starts on Instagram, when you look through colleagues’ holiday photos. Then Facebook, to read the news. A cat is dancing on TikTok, and two clicks away, a stranger shares a video from March, where a president talks about injecting our bodies with disinfectant to fight Covid-19. One “lockdown” recipe video later, and it’s time to get off the train and catch your metro. The 20-minute daily commute has gone by too quickly. LinkedIn will have to wait until you get to the office. But actually, isn’t it dangerous to put bleach in your mouth?
Even back in ancient times, Aristotle famously postulated that “nature abhors a vacuum”. The old adage seems to take on its full meaning when it comes to the digital ecosystems in which we spend our every day. News feeds are filled continuously, beyond our control. Now anyone can access these online platforms, where we all have the incredible opportunity to share our creativity and experiences with the entire connected world. In the information age, having access to knowledge seems to be a given. However, the issues of selection and perspective, still need to be worked out. And GAFAM*, overwhelmed by their creations their creations, don’t want to deal with it. It’s up to users to sort it out.
This digital cacophony is the perfect breeding ground for distrust, even to the point of refusing to believe. According to the Science Barometer Switzerland, almost 10% of those surveyed doubt that there is any evidence to prove the existence of the novel coronavirus. And these doubts can have very real, far-reaching repercussions, for example on vaccination rates. Taking a critical perspective is a crucial step in the scientific method. Some even make a profession out of it, such as Jacques Testart, a “science critic” in the same way that others might be literary critics. It’s healthy to doubt, but there’s an art to it.
Hospitals can step up to shed some light on all the information out there. Although they are still too reserved, health institutions are brimming with skills and expertise that they can provide for the public, and that’s all that the public really wants. The pandemic has recently proved once again that there is a place for us in this digital confusion. If we do not do something about it, other groups with different priorities will seize on the opportunity, with no regard for the quest for scientific truth. Establishing ourselves as a purveyor of reliable, verified information in news feeds should be a natural extension of our mission as a healthcare institution. So maybe the disinfectant remark was easy to disprove. But what about other articles with questionable sources circulating on social media, about the mRNA vaccine, Chloroquine or Ivermectin? You say you didn’t have the slightest doubt? /
* Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft