“It got into the papers, it was printed; and there is no doubt about it, one little feather may easily grow into five hens”. Hans Christian Anderson. From the story: ‘There is no doubt about it’.
A hen plucks a feather and as it falls, she merrily mentions that she is not bothered by it, because the more she plucks, the more beautiful she gets. Well, that was overheard by another hen, who expressed her indignation to another hen. The story of a hen plucking her feather, became the story of a hen who plucked all feathers, became two hens plucking all their feathers off and freezing to death and so on. This story spread across the area and it came back to the hen who had plucked her feather. She heard the terrible tale of five hens, who had not only plucked out all their feathers to show off, but they “pecked at each other till the blood ran down and they fell down dead, to the derision and shame of their family, and to the great loss of their owner.” Finally, the story reaches the newspapers, in all earnest, about the five hens, so that everyone should know.
Technology helps us in ways our ancestors could not have fathomed. Wait, even those in the 70s, or 80s, and many of us have seen in real time how things have changed.
Communication is easy- there is so much information now that we can fight Covid-19 far better than we could have, maybe 30-40 years ago. Back then, travel would have spread the virus a lot more and we would not have known what this mystery disease was because of lack of effective communication.
However, as the story of the hens goes-we are beseiged by misinformation. Faster is not necessarily truer. WhatsApp, Facebook and the media have ensured that fake news can spread fast in the community.
The viral basic reproduction number (R0) of the coronavirus is between 1.5-3.9. This is more infective than a cold, and less infective than some diseases like measles, or chicken pox (in an unimmunized population).
However, send one post out on WhatsApp, and be sure that the coronavirus has tough competition from a world where social media posts tend to become “viral”.
The R0 of a viral message out there is much higher.
What can we do online? 1. Spread only those messages which are from reliable sources like the ministry of Health, the WHO and so on. 2. If it seems fake, it is. How do you know? If you read any message and your mind goes, “is this true”, chances are it is fake. Also, if you see any message that promises 100 percent cure, get some popcorn and get ready to enjoy a nice fiction movie. 3. Call out those who spread hatred, especially religious- most people who do this are afraid and their fear makes them behave erratically. 4. Let me repeat this- physically distance yourself from the virus, and distance yourself online from hatred and negativity. 5. Help network for those who really need help- from verified sources. 6. Encourage social warriors out there who are setting up ways and means to help the community- and you can be them!
Use our kindness to make the change. Use technology to make the change. And the next time you are bombarded by fear mongering news, remember, it is most likely to be just one little feather.
Stay safe, stay strong! Cheers Mahesh