Is the media’s constant scare-mongering leading people to believe that COVID-19 isn’t serious?

Is the media’s constant scare-mongering leading people to believe that COVID-19 isn’t serious?

I write this blog after hearing the news that Northern Ireland will be going back in to lockdown, and i cant help but feel that we are now in a lockdown, reopen, cases rise again and back to lockdown cycle which will be hard to get out of.

Having worked in a bar since they were given the green light to reopen, i genuinely don’t know what people would talk about if the coronavirus wasn’t around. For the guts of 8 months, my social media feeds, news channels and general conversations have all heavily included the coronavirus topic, which is now growing to be quite a controversial one.

Are the media to blame for the fear factor?

Since the initial virus outbreak in January, most main stream medias have made it the forefront of their news outlets. I remember in February, seeing from BBC news that the coronavirus has reached Europe, still thinking that it wasn’t going to be anywhere near as serious as it has been. When COVID-19 finally hit the UK, the media instantly began to push the narrative that the “killer virus” was here to stay, this scared me (and i imagine a lot of others) and so i welcomed Boris’ announcement that we would be going in to lockdown for an initial 3 week period, which seems quite laughable now.

During the first 3 weeks of lockdown, I found myself almost forgetting about the virus, as it felt kind of like a holiday. However, the novelty soon wore off and this was when I became somewhat obsessed with the facts and figures about the virus. Every day I would watch the daily briefings, as it seemed we were in an endless spiral of rising cases and deaths. When you look back at it, yes the deaths and number of cases increased everyday, but you rarely seen stories of the people who had made recoveries, which makes you wonder, why would the media be so negative and focus on the negatives in a time that the people needed positive news just to feel a slight relief from the anxiety of it all.

What’s happening now?

At this point in time, I think many people are tired of the constant back and forth between normality and lockdowns/restrictions. I am quite a frequent twitter user, and my feed now compared to 6 months ago is like night and day. Now i see a focus on people who are fed up with not only the virus, but the mainstream media, who seemed to try extremely hard to scare the public with facts and figures but only highlighting the negatives. My worry is that if the public have made the decision to go against what the media and government are saying, the cases will continue to rise and the constant cycle of lockdown after lockdown will not be broken.

My take on it is this; the virus is not going to go away overnight and there will have to come a time where we learn to live with it. That being said, there are still so many vulnerable people that’s lives could be saved through restrictions. Let the most vulnerable shield and let everyone who feels comfortable, try and get back to some sort of normality, if that is even possible. In a time where everyone seems to be divided, largely down to the way the media have covered the crisis, we need to stick together and try and get through this long, hard winter.

PS: A massive thanks to every single front line worker who has risked their and their families well-being, you really are the MVP’S.

Daniel Hastings is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter.