Earlier this year, my friend invited me to a Facebook group. The Facebook group was about questioning the official line on COVID. I am pretty sure she didn’t believe in the conspiracy theories put forward by the group. I think she joined in part as it’s a novel situation it’s something unnerving as it’s unknown. This kind of situation hasn’t been encountered in our lifetime (hopefully, it won’t be something we encounter again for a while); this will depend on global warming and how we treat livestock).
Anyway, being added to the group is why I started to ask questions about what people thought they knew about COVID. I began to look at things shared in the group and investigate where these were coming from; for example, someone posted a picture that they said was related to increased surveillance and COVID. After a quick google image search, I saw it was nothing of the kind; it was an image associated with a protest in China against an increase in surveillance and happened before autumn 2019, so before COVID was even discovered. I began to point out discrepancies in the group’s information and anything misappropriated, like the image from China. Some people in the group were also challenging the narrative put forward, but people that the whole COVID thing was a conspiracy. While in the group, I argued about, among other things, social distancing and why it was necessary. At one point people from the group targeted Bill Gates, and when I asked them why they said, look, this guy had posted a meme exposing Bill Gates. The obvious response to the meme was, where is the source. Even though there were people open to arguements and willing to consider other views, a number took a lot of things at face value and never actually followed through and looked up the source of information they consumed online. I began to wonder if maybe it might be a good thing to educate myself and others re COVID measures, hence the interview with the virologist, to increase understanding.
A few months after joining the group, the admins had an overhaul. They booted out anyone who didn’t follow the narrative that COVID was a conspiracy theory, so I was expelled. However, it did have me wondering 1) how can we tackle vaccine hesitancy and 2) why some people were so fixated on certain theories and not open to any challenges wrt their mindset, and 3) who were the people behind the alternative narratives of COVID.
For the first one, the answer is we can have people talk about their experience with the vaccine and make it seem less scary; something I’ve started on my channel with the vaccine vox pops playlist (my first interview below):
For the second one, I did a survey (although there is information out there, I wondered if I could get some different perspective. I also thought it might be a good exercise for me to design something). I started with a kind of pilot survey (designed with the help of my sister, & Susan W), which I posted on my Facebook page. One of the first things in terms of the survey results was that I could have designed the questions slightly better, so it’s back to the drawing board to create survey number 2. The other problem is that most of the respondents are from my Facebook page (I think maybe some kind of incentive like a prize draw might be good next time). As one respondent pointed out, selection bias is the problem as my Facebook friends are likely to have certain characteristics in common.
Apart from survey design, the other thing about having people complete a survey was to make me think about certain aspects of the COVID crisis:
while I am aware that the more people are vaccinated, the better it is in terms of stopping the pandemic, an area I had thought less about was how the vaccine would be distributed in poorer countries which is something one of the respondents bought up.
I asked my sister the font of all knowledge, and apparently, the answer is that an organization called COVAX is coordinating the effort to vaccinate poorer countries.
I plan to do more interviews with people who’ve been vaccinated and want to change the questionnaire and distribute it on a large scale. When I have updates and survey data, I will summarise it here.