Observing how people deal with information and the levels of anxiety we deal with at the moment, I decided to share a few ideas on how to avoid Covid-19 information overload, whilst growing knowledge.
Covid-19, with its health, social, scientific and economic impacts, has made the content production engine of this world go into overdrive, leaving most of us struggling within an infodemic. This is particularly critical as the subject is frightening and can easily lead to mental health issues, stress and lack of concentration.
Striking the right balance
To remain sane, each of us needs to strike his or her own right balance between knowledge and anxiety. Both the quality and quantity of the information have an impact on this balance.
Too much information, and the brain cannot switch off nor rest from the associated scary thoughts. Inversely, too little information leads to anxiety from not knowing what’s happening… Unless you do not know what you don’t know, but this is unlikely the case with the omnipresent Covid-19 epidemic!
Unreliable information is also adding to anxiety as it ultimately leads to contradictions, doubts, and lack of trust. Eventually, it can lead to believing conspiracy theories. On the opposite, reliable information is less likely to be contradicted, thus leading to a more stable understanding of the situation and (comparatively) less anxiety. Trust towards the sources is also growing, leading people to return to these sources and making it easier to navigate the infodemic
When combining these two dimensions (quantity and reliability), it becomes obvious that the current infodemic really requires a delicate balancing act:
Of course, this vizualisation is a simplification, like any framework. The bearable amount of information totally depends on each person’s time, resilience to bad news, previous knowledge and motivation. For example, children, teens, medical workers and people suffering from chronic diseases are more likely to suffer from Covid-19 anxiety. Friends and family members should help these persons at risk better navigate this infodemic.
Couple of ideas to grow knowledge about Covid-19, not anxiety
Beginner? Rely on few highly trusted sources
If the subject of Covid-19 (and epidemics in general) is very recent for you and remains baffling, that’s normal.
>> Advice #1
Turn directly towards a few trusted institutions like The World Health Organization, your government’s or state’s official sources (such as Canada’s public health service), or quality news services that have good track record in quality journalism. I personally check Le Monde for information in my native language and country. Their live coverage is well documented and they respond to readers’ questions.
>> Advice #2
Avoid Whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook – there is little to no quality check. Even if these platforms are trying, the scale is huge and speed overwhelming! Avoid it even if something was shared by your network… unless you really know of a real specialized expert in your direct network (and not a-friend’s-very-important-friend-whose-name-cannot-be-revealed).
>> Advice #3
It is good to get information from several locations, as we’ve seen we can learn a lot from the recent experience in China and Italy. Obviously, a large portion of humanity doesn’t read Mandarin or Italian. So having information in your own language referring to the recent past in these places is a good sign that your source of information is doing its due diligence.
Intermediate? Rely on experts
If you feel a bit more comfortable navigating the information sphere and the Covid-19 topic, you can rely on more sources. You may look, in addition to the initial sources mentioned above, at individual experts blogs, newsletters and publications, or more specialized media. In this case, Twitter sources are useful, as long as you do not follow fake news sharers.
The problem intermediate news readers face is the sheer amount of information. There is an exponential difference between the few trusted sources for the beginner above and here (and again with the next). This is also why we speak of an infodemic.
So, how can you manage to keep your head above the water?
>> Advice #1
Check your sources and get rid of any that is unreliable or dubious. There are plenty of good ones, so you don’t need to keep the low quality. If you do not know good sources, check those initial sources mentioned for beginners and see whom they refer to. Stand on shoulders of giants by checking what experts refer to, or get some help from technology. Cronycle Topics are automated feeds surfacing relevant information shared by experts on 50,000 topics, such as epidemiology, infectious diseases, and public health. Nicolas, our co-founder has also made some covid-19 feeds public, which you can find on this page.
>> Advice #2
Aggregate these good sources into one handy place so the information is easier to process, put aside and resume processing. There are many content aggregators around, but I’m obviously going to recommend Cronycle, as this is the basic ideas behind our feeds. You can aggregate blogs & diverse news sites via RSS, and also Twitter sources and email newsletters.
>> Advice #3
Lastly, set some limits. Do not spend the day dipping in and out of (bad) news. Clear up some time for information reading, and respect the time allocated for other important tasks such as taking care of loved ones, your work, helping the community or doing relaxing tasks like gardening or stroking your cat (without reading news). Lastly, give yourself a curfew – no news reading past 8pm for example so that your brain has time to calm down before it is time to head to bed. I bet the world hasn’t had the best sleep in the last couple of weeks! We need to rest to be resilient, and that’s particularly true for healthcare workers who are bearing the heaviest load here.
Advanced? Filter out the gold!
You want to participate in the common knowledge growth about Covid-19, or at least help make better decision in your personal or professional life? In this case, you need to dig deeper and become a real “curator” of information. Adopt a methodological approach so you can grow knowledge about Covid-19, not anxiety.
Whether or not you share the results of your curation is up to you. However, remember that it may be helpful for others. This is what Nicolas, our co-founder, discovered with his very well read Coronadaily newsletter (8-15k readers per issue).
>> Advice #1
First, expand your horizon by discovering good sources to get you exceptional content. Pull the threads of good content towards other sources and build a real sources library. Cronycle has the most powerful sources library around, it’s made for you!
>> Advice #2
Aggregate in one workspace, as described above with feeds, but also to safegard the best articles, videos, tweets, etc which you come across. To keep things organized, save to different boards, add tags, and build your taxonomy.
>> Advice #3
Add filters on top of your feeds of aggregated sources to make them more specific to what you want to know. You may have some generic feeds on Covid-19, but that’s likely unmanageable in terms of amount of content. Try to identify a few angles, such as healthcare workers, vaccine, treatment, or economical impact. With our Cronycle Topics, you can also focus on what only the top expert influencers shared. Read this tutorial on how you can add filters on Cronycle feeds.
In the example above, I added 4 Cronycle Topics (Epidemiology, Global Health, Infectious Diseases and Virology), 2 keywords to include (Covid-19 and Coronavirus), 1 keyword to exclude (Trump), and I filtered for content shared only by top 100 expert influencers in each Topic. It still provides a lot of content. Advanced filters on top of this are helpful to get to more specific sub-topics like Covid-19 immunity. This is a subject Nicolas will cover in an upcoming post.
>> Advice #4
Finally, if you decide to share, add your own perspective on this. A list of links is not curation. Curation is about making sense from a set of information, thus growing knowledge. If you use Cronycle boards, add summaries to the items you want to share.
There is always more to know…
Writing a conclusion for this post is difficult. We are in a difficult situation, not only in relation to the virus and its social and economical impacts, but also in relation to how information flows in our world. It is hard to grow knowledge about Covid-19, and not anxiety. Black-box algorithms designed for engagement and favouring drama have totally biaised the signal we used to get, increasing noise exponentially in the last few years. This is not new, but Covid-19 has made this infodemic more noticeable and urgent to solve. At Cronycle, we hope to be part of the solution.