Last year some 36,000 people died in the United States as a result of influenza. This year a new strain kills a few and the world is turned upside down. But swine flu hasn’t made it into history the way the media had predicted.
So far it appears that the only epidemic was one of hysteria created by the media – both online and off. This week CNN’s hyped coverage did its part to keep viewers glued to their sets. From the furrowed brow of Anderson Cooper to the dramatic orchestral music used to tease segments, CNN recognized the story of swine flu more as an opportunity grab viewers rather than a chance to allay the fears of innocent viewers who didn’t know better.
On social media platforms the subject was equally seductive. As a trending topic on Twitter last week, swine flu related topics represented 5 out of 10 trending buzzwords on Twitter. In the reverbosphere of the blog world, posts about swine flu won immediate attention. And unfortunately, physicians were equally complicit in the gang-bang of new media hype that drove this story to stratospheric levels.
While there is a lot that remains to be learned about this strain of influenza, there’s more we need to learn about how we relay health information to one another.
On Twitter everyone’s a health journalist … unfortunately. And teasing reliable public health information from hype is something that very few have the capacity to discern. Anyone among us who re-tweeted, posted, speculated, or linked information that wasn’t directly from trusted sources such as the CDC was complicit in what’s been created.
There are very few among us who truly understand the myths and realities of a threat of this nature. Before we hit ‘update,’ we all should insist that it’s only those few expert bodies who should serve as the source of when to go on with out lives and when to stick out heads in the sand. All of us need to understand the impact of seemingly innocent reverberation.
While we would all like to believe that crowdsourcing is a viable means to good health information, the Aporkalypse is a clear example of how the mob and the media haven’t a clue.