Commentary: Too much information about COVID-19 can be disorienting and unnecessarily stressful


In Singapore, a recent online survey we conducted at the NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information in August found that about 30% of the 674 Singapore citizens and permanent residents surveyed said they had experienced information overload on COVID-19.

We are dealing with the morning information when the daily updates on the whatsapp channel arrive at the end of the day when we go to bed.

We saw a slight increase in the number of respondents who frequently use news websites in Singapore, up around 7 percentage points between our first survey in December 2020 and our second survey in June.

While this is an encouraging development, as more people read reliable sources and keep abreast of the latest news, it may also contribute to increased exposure to information related to the pandemic.

In many ways, Singapore is expected to be more sensitive to information overload, having one of the highest internet penetration rates in the world, with some of the fastest speeds, which means we are benefiting from quick and easy access to information inside and outside the country.

Singaporeans are also among the most active social media users in the world before the coronavirus, this trend increasing as the elderly and vulnerable groups are encouraged to go online to fight social isolation.

The 2021 Digital News Report for Singapore, published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, found that 88% of the more than 2,000 Singapore residents surveyed in January used WhatsApp, while 70% use Facebook and 73% Youtube.

Yet on these social media spaces, credible information from authorities and candid personal updates appear alongside misinformation about dangerous home remedies, vaccine conspiracy theories and more, adding to a roadblock. information too difficult to manage.

The use of social media can be a bane in difficult times as we struggle to cope with a deluge of lawyers. In fact, the frequent consumption of social media for updates related to COVID-19 is the only thing our August survey found to be linked to higher levels of information overload.



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