Journal of Dr. NTR University of Health Sciences

: 2021  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 129--133

Mass media and social media during COVID-19: A review

Shaik M Shameer 
 Visiting Faculty, Department of Communication and Journalism, Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University, Near Public Garden, Nampally, Hyderabad, Telangana, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Shaik M Shameer
Visiting Faculty, Department of Communication and Journalism, Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University, Near Public Garden, Nampally, Hyderabad - 500 004, Telangana


A novel coronavirus named as COVID-19 crop up in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Quickly it spread to other countries worldwide to turn out to be a pandemic. Internationally, governments imposed quarantine and social distancing measures to put off the spread of the infection. Mass media and social media played a vital role in disseminating information regarding the COVID-19. Since little information and knowledge about COVID-19, various fake news, misinformation, and grapevine spread across the social media that scared people to make panic decisions. The swift spread of misinformation and stories through social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube became a crucial concern of the government and public health authorities. Medical misinformation and unverifiable content about the COVID-19 pandemic were spread on social media at an unparalleled pace. Social media as a secondary medium should be utilized to convey important information. Besides, it allows citizens to address their queries directly. Several governments across the world have taken actions against misinformation spreaders. Yet, measures are to be needed to stop misinformation. Mass media especially electronic tried to disseminated information through doctors and scientist and allotted separate columns in newspapers. Due to misinformation about COVID-19, many people stopped subscription to newspapers. The advertisements revenue fall down. As a result, many newspapers reduced pages.

How to cite this article:
Shameer SM. Mass media and social media during COVID-19: A review.J NTR Univ Health Sci 2021;10:129-133

How to cite this URL:
Shameer SM. Mass media and social media during COVID-19: A review. J NTR Univ Health Sci [serial online] 2021 [cited 2023 Jan 28 ];10:129-133
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Coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) was first reported in early December in Wuhan province of China spread worldwide to become a global pandemic.[1] The first case of novel coronavirus outside of China confirmed in Thailand January 13, 20. Novel coronavirus disease named COVID-19 on February 11, 20.[2] Governments across the world put into action social distancing and isolation methods to reduce the risk of infection.[3] Self-quarantine and seclusion become a threat to the psychological health of the people.[4] Since little was known about the novel coronavirus, it is essential to make available the accurate information acquired from an authentic source.[5] In the initial stages of corona pandemic, it was difficult to collect the data of the affected, recovered, and casualties, because rapidly changing data on coronavirus. It was reported that the elderly and immunocompromised individuals were more at risk for COVID-19 infection.[5] Initially, we lack pharmaceutical aids to manage the outbreak. The tools to combat COVID-19 were identified as quarantine and social distancing. To reduce panic, social media platforms were used to encourage people to follow the directions of public health workers and the quarantine rules (Depoux et al., 2020).[33] The COVID-19 pandemic considered as a unique and new to medical fraternity.[6] The size of misinformation was so disturbing on the individual and community levels that governing bodies began to acknowledge its impact and made efforts to limit them.[7] Usually, an outbreak of infectious disease unpredictable in a particular community, region, or period.[8] The misinformation, misapprehension, or rumors significantly hamper the communication response and escalate panic amongst the people. Since the information increases rapidly through social media, it is necessary to monitor media and manage rumor.[9] Social media was one of the preliminary source proliferated the information regarding the virus.[10] The major negative aspect of social media amid challenging circumstances as COVID-19 epidemic is that social media has been conveniently used as an approach to convey misinformation and fake news.[11] The popularization of social networking platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, the information dissemination in disaster contexts has increased worldwide at diverse levels.[11] Social media gives a platform for sharing public opinion and perceptions, which can be volatile and sensitive during a grave situation as COVID-19 pandemic.[12]


The aim of this work was to study the role mass media and social media during COVID-19 and to find out the effectiveness of mass media in India in generating awareness during the pandemic.


Data for the present review paper were drawn from original articles available on “Google”/”Google Scholar” search engine using keywords such as “Mass media and social media efficacy in India.”

 Social Media as an Asset During a Pandemic

Nowadays social media has become very important source of information; Twitter has the potential to provide real-time content acknowledging the public health authorities to reply the queries of the people promptly.[13] During COVID-19 pandemic, social media had presented immediate disease-related information to exchange among the people in real time.[8] It was found in a study that the H1N1 flu occurrence was also first reported in social media.[14] Due instant approach and reach, government organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started using social media to inform people of the noticeable infections such as Zika and Ebola outbreaks.[8] The incessantly growing social media has turn out to be a key platform for messages during a crisis. Social media platforms are predominantly used by public health departments as well as individuals to communicate and interact with people during public health emergencies.[15] The popular social media platforms such as Twitter, You Tube, and Face book,measure taken to avoid misinformation during COVID-19 pandemic, remain questionable.[16] In the environment, in which people are born, live, study, work, play, worship, and age are social determinants of health, which are the factors that influence a wide variety of health outcomes, risks, and overall quality of life.[2]

 Emotional Confusion During the Pandemic Due to Social Media

Usually, a pandemic outbreak threatens the fitness of a huge range of people, thereby requiring on the spot measures to cease the contamination at the community level.[17] The Studies have revealed that panic and rage resolve the correlation between social media access, menace perception at the personal level, and protective behaviors[8] and these emotions manipulate the association between threat perception and mass media.[8] Anxiety was the relevant negative emotion during the COVID-19 pandemic.[8] When in correct or false information pass on to the public, people may tend to panic and react to such in accurate information in different ways, which leads to take hasty decision to purchase and use unwarranted or even unsafe drug regimens.[18]

The imperative obligation to ease the panic due to social media has become a priority (Depoux et al., 2020). When the outbreak began, the public tried to find out appropriate online resources and information to protect themselves.[15] The search term about infectious disease on social media garner much attention.[15] WHO expressed grave concern over social media relating misinformation that caused anxiety, fear, and anger among people.[10] Misinformation and misleading news about COVID-19 during pandemic fueled baseless panic, confusion, and hampered mental health of the citizens.[19]

 Pandemic Misinformation and its Consequences

A major risk related to using social media is the posting and forwarding of unethical content which has adverse effects on health care professionals (HCPs), students, and health-care institutions.[20] Facebook introduced a new update, which warned users if they are engaged with incorrect information.[13] Some research mentioned that validated Twitter accounts and health care accounts had least unverifiable statistic in assessment with others.[7] Some researchers found that the “humor effect,” of users joins the debate to derision the conspiracy theory inadvertently draws more attention to it, turning out as a threat for half-truths.[21] Misleading information on Facebook about probable medications, as well as hydroxychloroquine to cure COVID-19, stirred many people to procure such drug without medical approval, resulting in the abnormal health consequence and in sufficient of these drugs for patients who actually need them.[22] The misleading news consists of different facades of the epidemic, which is proficient enough to become threat to public safety, which over again worsen crisis management.[23]


Infodemiology is a new field of research targeted at educating public health agencies and drafting public policies to assess automatically created and consumed health data.[24] The advantage of infodemiology is its capability to gather health-related data instantly from unstructured, written, picture or user-generated content or information which is shared through digital platforms such as websites, blogs, and social network sites.[25] But, authenticity and reliability of user-generated data is doubtful.[26] Sometimes, user-generated content and shared health information relating to the COVID19 will act as an efficient method for public health surveillance.[11] Examines the online interpretation, responses to health problems by the public as seen on social media propose insights into the public's awareness and self-disclosure of symptoms related to the infection.[11] Studies indicate that network analyses are significantly useful for monitoring shared networks between various stakeholders, and also the appropriate distribution of sources during national disasters or emergencies.[11]


Cyberchondria is a term that explains the situation, where patients can research all symptoms of an atypical disease, ill-health or condition, and anxiety. Cyberchondria and information overload were observed from excessive internet use during COVID-19 pandemic. Cyberchondria is characterized as infatuated online searching for information related to health, typically about specific symptoms.[27] During the panic situation, uncharacteristic and potentially fatal pandemic conditions such as COVID-19 pandemic, a unclear communication may arose confusion and even fear among people.[6] Often, Social media news is more sensitive and lacks the impartial and broad approach like the reports of journalists.[6] Social media networking website and search engine developers should take steps to allow transparent and clear information so as to avert adverse effects of information overload and cyberchondria, while disseminating the seriousness of the pandemic situation and recommended health measures to citizens.[6] Educating people on the accountability and safe use of social media may help to alleviate the negative influence.[6]

 Influence of Mass Media Relating to COVID-19

Mass media have been observed as critical sources of public perceptions of risk.[8] The information relating to risk is offered in a manner that persuade people's perception of risk, particularly sensational media coverage of a pandemic crisis.[28] Anxiety and anger mediate the effect of media reporting on the perception of personal-level danger and increase beneficial preventive behaviors. The outbreak of COVID-19 is a negative incidence, consequential in an unpredictably high number of illnesses and mortalities, ascertain negative self-relevant emotions from the public.[8] People frequently convey their concerns about the virus outbreak through social media.[8] In some occasions, though, the mass media are incapable to capture the epidemic on time, and unable to become the prime indicator.[18] Since mass media news reports fall behind to report real-time coronavirus trends, it may not play a helpful pre-warning role in disseminating and sensitizing about public health.[18] As the virus was new and unpredictable. There was no sufficient research on it, misinformation transmitted by the mass media leading to adverse psychological effects among people.[18] BBC India website has witnessed massive increase in traffic. WhatsApp itself is reportedly build a team in India to help deal with the spread of fake news on its platform.[29] Just before the announcement of the nationwide lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked print and electronic media owners and editors of the country to present “positive news” related to COVID-19.[30] Mass media especially electronic tried to disseminated information through Doctors and Scientist and allotted separate columns in newspapers. Due to misinformation about COVID-19, many people stopped subscription to newspapers. The advertisements revenue fall down. As a result, many newspapers reduced pages.[31]

 Improvement Actions Taken By Several Government Bodies

Globally, government organizations have used social media for creating awareness and encouraging citizen during the crisis.[32] In the United Kingdom, Local government officials used Twitter features, such as hashtags and mentions, to converse with the general public to elucidate rumors and recognize perpetrators during the 2011 riots.[32] Indonesian government agencies used Twitter to convey early alerting communications with people during the 2012 Tsunami.[32] Government officials in the United States used Twitter during the 2012 Sandy Hurricane crisis. However, they mainly engaged individuals, important government agencies, and media outlets.[32] The Chinese government had opened many services across various platforms, including hotline, online counseling, and outpatient counseling, but unable to provide more attention to depression and anxiety.[10] To reach public concerns, the Chinese government started disseminating a series of updates on the official 'Weibo” accounts about the disease, on how to handle probable cases, (Li et al., 2020).[16] Whenever false news was circulated, the Chinese authorities took swift corrective action.[5] In Egypt, the Ministry of Health (MOH) started using different forms of communication to inform the public about the epidemic, including television and street advertising, as well as text messages and even used supported ads on Facebook.[22] In India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare provided continuous update on COVID-19 and launch the Arogyasethu app to track patients.

 Media Should Be Used as a Shield

Social media should be used to strengthen the public health response (Depoux et al., 2020). Public media, newspapers, and radio, Television stations must take necessary steps and put stop to false news by addressing theories of conspiracy circulating at the time.[13] Well-timed monitoring of risk networks and public social media communications will promote awareness and assist in developing the policies needed.[11] Social media analytics help government authorities to react on real-time information about current infectious disease threats. People exchanged information using different news sources and social media.[11] A critical/immediate remedial measure against false information should take place on the platform itself, where it occurs because people don't visit a website to crosscheck report.[13] To prevent the collapse of the health system, a successful health interventions are needed, the media can play a vital role in disseminating updated policies and convention from authorities to the people.[18] Effective communication link between the citizens and the public health authorities/or governments through the media and social media platforms will make easy to handle the pandemic situation successfully. (Depoux et al., 2020).[33] Effective risk communication is need of the hour program will enable to preparedness for health emergencies. Strengthening the capacity of risk communication is an essential component of global efforts to enhance global health security.[9]


Since the announcement of COVID-19 as a pandemic, the mass media and social media have been flooded with information. Some information is directed to educate people about the new virus, whose management is yet to be known. Several governments across the world have taken timely actions against misinformation of pandemic. The Government bodies and public health care authorities should utilize the media in teaching awareness among the people and narrowing panic. The several countries' government has used social media in informing the people about the imminent danger, thus making the best use of the resource. The media should also be obliged to ensure the reports 'accuracy.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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