The Connection Between Social Reactions to Coronavirus and Moral Panic
However, if one had to look at news titles and pictures shared across the globe, one would identify a fundamental multiplier factor: panic – a level of distress beyond the “toilet paper panic” seen in Hong Kong, Singapore or, more recently, in Italy.
"After four years in which social media has been viewed as an antisocial force," Smith suggests, "the crisis is revealing something surprising, and a bit retro: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others can actually deliver on their old promise to democratize information and organize communities." He talked to leaders at these companies, plus Pinterest and Snapchap, about how they have been handling coronavirus misinformation. Misinformation still abounds on these platforms, of course. But so do opportunities to correct it—at least in a relatively free society. The president himself may be among those downplaying the disease's seriousness, but anyone with a Twitter account can publicly push back at him. In China, where government tightly regulates digital platforms, we've seen authorities use social media to spread damaging propaganda that citizens aren't allowed to dispute. Meanwhile, technology and digital media companies are playing another important, if somewhat less lofty, function: providing entertainment, diversion, and a non-disease-spreading social outlet to the increasing number of people electing or forced to stay in. It is, at least, the best of all times to be stuck at home.
Facing prejudice, including discrimination related to COVID-19, may add to feelings of isolation and affect career development, especially for students. Preventive measures by universities to lessen prejudice should include transparency about the disease status, data gathering, and direction about appropriate behavior. University administrators should release reassuring statements about the local COVID-19 situation that supplement the information released by health authorities. Academic administrators should survey students and staff of Asian origin (as well as others if appropriate) to determine whether they have experienced any prejudice related to COVID-19 and whether they expect university authorities to take any additional action (B. A. O'Shea et al. 2019). The administrators should also release statements that explain that in Asia, people wear masks for a variety of reasons, such as to filter polluted air, make fashion or political statements, or provide social indicators that they want to be left alone in public spaces. Typical surgical face masks do not necessarily indicate someone is sick, and as many students are likely aware, they do not provide complete protection against viral infections. Universities can also launch social media campaigns that support Asian and Asian-American students (and other targets) in the form of infographics or videos. Both university administrators and department heads should issue a notice that COVID-19–related prejudice or xenophobic reactions from academic staff and other students will not be tolerated and will be treated in accordance with anti-discrimination laws. Finally, university leaders at all levels should encourage students and academic staff to provide extra support and kindness to Asian and other international students during the ongoing outbreak (L. Asmelash, 2020).
Unconditional tax cuts for employers and employee-side payroll tax cuts are often poorly targeted and may not reach those most in need. For example, expanded social insurance programs like unemployment may permit workers to stay on payroll and be paid when they cannot work because of a COVID-19 downturn.
L. Asmelash, “UC Berkeley faces backlash after stating ‘xenophobia’ is ‘common’ or ‘normal’ reaction to coronavirus,” CNN (2020).
B. A. O'Shea et al., Soc. Psychol. Pers. Sci., 10.1177/1948550619862319 (2019).
Yan, D. C. Berliner, Asia Pacific Educ. Rev. 12, 173 (2011).
T. Hamamura, P. G. Laird, J. Multicult. Couns. Dev. 42, 205 (2014)