Information: Too Much or Too Soon?

Information: Too Much or Too Soon?

Sulaiman Dawood Al Sabei
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7503-1.ch003
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Sharing accurate and high-quality information is critical during the pandemic to reduce people's anxiety, making them well informed, and ensuring they follow the correct steps. Despite the importance of information in pandemic management, too much information or its untimely release can be harmful to individuals and communities. During the time of COVID-19 pandemic, as an example, people were overwhelmed with the amount of information they received from the public, newspapers, and social media. The information might not be from trusted sources, which might negatively affect people's psychological health. This chapter will examine the ways in which this can occur and the potential impacts of pandemic-related information overload on mental health and psychological well-being. The chapter will also examine the important issue of timeliness in releasing information through the traditional media or online, highlighting situations in which the untimely release of information has exacerbated the crisis in some national settings.
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Communication is one of the highly important and vital skills in our daily lives. According to McFarland (1994), communication is defined as a process of exchanging meaningful opinions, facts, and even emotions among human beings. Effective communication can simplify complex processes, enhance the team spirit among members from different professions and cultures, improve productivity, and ensure continuity. Communication has become even more important during the time of pandemics and crises.

According to chaos theory, during pandemics people experience high levels of stress and uncertainty and feel disorganised (Seeger et al., 2003). Receiving conflicting or misleading communications from officials and/or social media can exaggerate people’s anxiety and threaten their overall health. The COVID-19 pandemic presents a clear example of people receiving several overwhelming pieces of information from different sources about the status of pandemics, treatment modalities, and potential strategies to face the crisis. Sharing accurate information is critical during a time of pandemic to reduce people’s stress, ensure they follow the correct steps, and catalyse an overall positive change. Therefore, there is a need to use an open and empathetic style of communication to engender public trust (Reynolds & Quinn, 2008). The objectives of the chapter are to:

  • 1.

    Discuss the magnitude of information overload during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • 2.

    Identify the causes of sharing misinformation.

  • 3.

    Explain the psychological effects of 24/7 pandemic-related news coverage and information on both community- and individual-level behaviours.

  • 4.

    Present lessons from international organisations regarding effective communication strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Magnitude Of Information Overload

To quantify the amount of data related to COVID-19 published in medical journals, the author conducted a literature review using PubMed, an interface used to search articles published in the Medline medical database and other biomedical contents. He included articles published since the start of COVID-19 – December 19, 2019 – up to August 31, 2021 in the review. He used the following key terms and synonyms: COVID, COVID-19, coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, 2019 novel coronavirus and 2019-nCoV. The search included published studies, reviews, letters, guidelines, and editorials. As shown in Table 1, in the first month after the first case of COVID-19 was reported in China, 655 articles were published in PubMed. Within just 3 months, the number of articles increased to 3,996. By the end of 2020, more than 100,000 articles had been published. This reflects the large amount of information circulated across just one database.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Conspiracy Beliefs: Claims and opinions about the theatrical foundation for the COVID-19 and its goal.

Information Overload: Excessive amount of information.

Misinfodemic: False and misinformation related to a particular topic or a disease.

Health Literacy: The level of understanding of health-related information and making informed health decisions.

Infodemic: The overabundance of information received from multiple unverified sources that make it difficult for people to recognize trusted and accurate information.

Rumor: Unverified information that can be correct or fabricated.

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