BRAZIL – 2020/02/24: In this photo illustration a TikTok logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo … [+]
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The World Health Organization is on TikTok. Sh*t just got real. As in, some real information from a reputable source has finally made its way to the popular social media platform.
Last week, the United Nations’ health agency debuted on TikTok with a couple of dry, but enlightening, public service announcements about coronavirus in an attempt to reach teens with reliable information.
The first video shows Benedetta Allegranzi, the technical lead of infection prevention and control, offering up some pretty standard intel that one would hope most people already know from years combating flu seasons: Wash your hands frequently. Don’t touch your face. Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue. If you cough or sneeze into a tissue, throw the tissue away immediately. Keep away from sick people, and if you become a sick person, hoof it to the doctor. But misinformation surrounding the virus, especially on social media, has been rampant. Last month, the WHO actually called the phenomena of such an overabundance of accurate and inaccurate information an “infodemic,” making it difficult for the average Jane to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance. From teens faking a coronavirus diagnosis for TikTok clout to millions of Twitter posts peddling conspiracy theories, reasonable and reliable information has to fight for air online.
In the WHO’s second post, April Baller, a medical officer with the organization’s health emergency program, demonstrated how to properly wear and use a face mask. She also talks about who needs to be wearing a face mask: No, you shouldn’t be wearing one just to ride the subway. The content reads: “If you do not have respiratory symptoms, such as fever, cough, or runny nose, you do not need to wear a medical mask.” Double negatives aside, a good rule of thumb when debating whether or not you think you really do need a medical mask for the subway, despite the urgings of healthcare officials, is: “masks are more for sick people to wear so they don’t get others sick,” as one commenter succinctly put it. Medical masks are also for healthcare workers, those on the front lines of the fight against the virus, according to Baller. This bit of information is particularly important as healthcare workers are currently facing a shortage of face masks in the aftermath of stockpiling panic and the gouging of prices for masks, both in store and online.
NEW YORK, USA – MARCH 3: People wear face masks as a precaution against coronavirus in New York, … [+]
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Generally, commenters are applauding the WHO for bringing its important messages to TikTok and helping to stop the spread of misinformation. Many are making wry comments about the seriousness of the situation if the WHO has deigned to create a TikTok account. Lively discussions abound, debating the benefits and uselessness of everyone wearing a medical mask in order to contain the spread, the risks of coronavirus entering the body through the eyes, the overall advantages of being young enough to probably not be killed by the virus and the odd conspiracy theory sentiment: “coronavirus is not new. WAKE UP GUYS ITS A DISTRACTION.” Many are also in agreement that the duet and meme potential of the WHO’s vids will bring many lols, once we’re all ready to laugh about it.
The WHO’s posts aren’t flashy or fun like most TikTok posts are. But that’s ok. People need the facts from the WHO, not entertainment. It would be far more alarming if the UN health agency created a 15 second dance video or pisstake scenes of Baller putting on the face mask wrong. Now that would be cause for concern.