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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 299-303

The impact of panic spread in social media over COVID-19 on dental students of Nellore, India – A cross-sectional study


Department of Public Health Dentistry, Narayana Dental College and Hospital, Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, India

Date of Submission05-Apr-2021
Date of Decision06-Jul-2021
Date of Acceptance08-Nov-2021
Date of Web Publication15-Dec-2021

Correspondence Address:
Peteti Lasya Suma
Department of Public Health Dentistry, Narayana Dental College and Hospital, Nellore, Andhra Pradesh
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/jiaphd.jiaphd_56_21

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  Abstract 


Introduction: Social media platforms play an important role in the dissemination of information on the COVID-19 pandemic. Fake news had spread more rapidly on social media during the pandemic. Frequent exposure to fake news on coronavirus disease in social media creates panic and affects people's mental health. Aim: This study aims to assess the effect of social media on spreading panic over COVID–19 among dental students in Nellore city of Andhra Pradesh. Methodology: A descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted over a period of 1 month on 534 dental students of Nellore city of Andhra Pradesh. A specially designed and validated 20-item questionnaire was used to collect the data. SPSS version 21.0 was used for the statistical analysis. The Chi-square test used for categorical data. P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant. Results: Majority of the subjects used Instagram (50.3%) and Whatsapp (79.4%) to obtain and share information related to COVID-19 respectively. There was statistically significant association between the BDS and MDS dental students' responses on the questions relating to panic created over COVID-19 in social media. 54.2% of subjects felt that filters need to be set up for social media during a humanitarian crisis. Conclusion: The study concluded that the panic created in social media over COVID-19 had an impact on dental students.

Keywords: COVID-19, Social media, Panic, Dental students


How to cite this article:
Suma PL, Reddy V C, Kumar R V, Gomasani S, Prathyusha V, Prasanth P S. The impact of panic spread in social media over COVID-19 on dental students of Nellore, India – A cross-sectional study. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2021;19:299-303

How to cite this URL:
Suma PL, Reddy V C, Kumar R V, Gomasani S, Prathyusha V, Prasanth P S. The impact of panic spread in social media over COVID-19 on dental students of Nellore, India – A cross-sectional study. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Aug 19];19:299-303. Available from: https://www.jiaphd.org/text.asp?2021/19/4/299/332535




  Introduction Top


Social media platforms are one of the most widely used, easiest, and effective sources of information around the world as they are easy to log in, provide inexpensive access to the internet, and the presence of an enormous number of users.[1],[2] It has become a helpful tool for individuals to communicate with friends and family during quarantine periods to minimize the negative effect of isolation which has been linked with anxiety, stress, and fear.[3],[4]

Numerous rumors, misinformation, and hoaxes have appeared on social media platforms regarding the etiology, outcomes, prevention, and cure of the disease.[5] The pressing issue is that fake news spreads more rapidly on social media and damages the authenticity balance of the news ecosystem.[6] This issue is becoming a public health concern as exposure to a high volume of information can lead to media fatigue, causing the discontinuation of healthy behaviors that are essential to protect individuals.[5]

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study in India assessing the effect of social media panic over COVID-19 among dental students. Hence, the present study was conducted to assess the effect of social media on spreading panic of COVID-19 among dental students in Nellore City of Andhra Pradesh.


  Materials and Methods Top


Ethics

Ethical approval for the study was obtained from the Institutional Ethics Board. Informed consent was obtained from all the study participants.

Study design

A descriptive cross-sectional study was designed to assess the effect of social media on spreading panic over COVID–19 among dental students in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, India. The study was conducted for 1 month in a dental college. The source of data is primary. A 20-item questionnaire designed for this study was validated by checking content validity using the content validity index with Davis criteria.[7] A pilot study was conducted among 10 dental students who were not included in the main study to check the feasibility of the study and reliability of the questionnaire. Cohen's Kappa test was used to measure the intra-examiner reliability and found to be 0.9 which showed a high agreement.

A validated 20-item questionnaire consisted of two sections. Section A comprises demographic details. Section B contains questions regarding the social media usage for COVID-19 information and sharing the information and misinformation regarding COVID-19 in social media and the effect of social media panic on study subjects. Dental students were approached personally by the investigator and explained the purpose of the study. The questionnaire was distributed to them, and they were assured of the confidentiality of their responses and requested to give appropriate answers. The filled questionnaire was collected back the same day. Multiple visits were made to different academic year groups to get the proformas filled. A total of 534 dental students were finally included in the study based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria and availability.

Inclusion criteria

Dental students who agreed to participate, gave informed consent and were present during the study period.

Exclusion criteria

Dental students who did not give informed consent and were absent during the study period.

Statistics

Results obtained were coded, and analysis was done using the software program IBM SPSS 21.0 (IBM Corp, Armonk, NY, USA). Mean was calculated for the demographics. A Chi-square test was used. P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.


  Results Top


A total of 534 dental students participated in the study. 17.6% were males and 82.4% were females. Majority of the study participants belong to the age group of 18–22 years (70%) and 86.5% of them were BDS students [Table 1].
Table 1: Demographic details of study participants

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Majority of the study participants (42.3%) were active on social media for 1–2 h per day. 50.3% and 48.7% of study participants obtained information about COVID-19 in Instagram and Whatsapp respectively. This was not statistically significant when compared BDS and MDS students' responses. 18% of the study subjects obtained information about COVID-19 on Facebook, but this found to be statistically significant [Table 2].
Table 2: Distribution of study participants based on usage of social media

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Only 56.3% of study subjects shared information on COVID-19. 90% of them read the information before sharing and 14% of the study participants used Facebook to share information which was statistically significant when compared with BDS and MDS students' responses. 95.7% of them shared information to educate people and this was statistically insignificant [Table 3].
Table 3: Distribution of study participants' responses to COVID-19 information sharing on social media

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About 43.6% of study participants reported that fake news about COVID-19 had the most impact on creating panic on social media. 38.3% of study participants affected psychologically. 49.8% of them lost interest in doing work. This was statistically significant when compared BDS and MDS students' responses [Table 4].
Table 4: Distribution of study participants' responses to panic created on social media regarding COVID-19

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54.2% of study participants felt that filters need to be set up for social media during humanitarian crisis, and this found to be highly significant (P ≤ 0.001) when compared BDS and MDS students' responses. 37% of study participants ignored when encountered misinformation about COVID-19 in social media. 76.2% of study participants know that sharing misinformation on COVID-19 is illegal. This was statistically insignificant when compared BDS and MDS students' responses [Table 5].
Table 5: Distribution of study participants' responses to spread of misinformation in social media

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  Discussion Top


Social media is one of the main channels where the information related to COVID-19 is often updated.[8] It not only allows the public to access a wide variety of opinions and information but also amplifies rumors and questionable information.[9] Just like the coronavirus itself, misinformation has spread far and wide, drowning out credible sources of information.

The current study investigated the effect of social media on spreading panic over COVID-19 among dental students in Nellore city of Andhra Pradesh. The results showed that most of the participants were active on social media for 1–2 h per day (42.3%). Only 18% of the subjects obtained information about COVID-19 on Facebook, and this was found to be statistically significant when compared BDS and MDS students' responses. This was similar to the study done by Radwan et al.[3] who reported a majority of the school students (81.8%) used Facebook to know more information about COVID-19 and found to be statistically significant.

In this study, 56.3% of dental students shared the information on COVID-19, of which 90% read the information before sharing, and it was statistically significant when compared BDS and MDS students' responses. 95.7% of them shared the information to educate people, but this was not statistically significant.

Majority of the students (43.6%) reported that fake news about COVID-19 had the most impact on creating panic on social media. This was similar to the study done by Ahmad and Murad[10] However, in the study done by Radwan et al.[3] 58.7% of students reported that both dissemination of the number of infections and fake news about the COVID-19 outbreak had an impact on creating panic on social media.

In this study, it was found that the majority of the students (38.3%) have got affected psychologically. The most probable reason could be the fact that the students had stayed online for a long time while attending online classes and the presence of more leisure time during lockdown when colleges were closed, which could have let to frequent exposure to content related to COVID-19 on social media. This was similar to the studies done by Radwan et al.[3] and Ahmad and Murad[10] 49.8% of study subjects lost interest in doing work after seeing/reading information about COVID-19 and found to be highly significant when compared BDS and MDS students' responses. It is not surprising that psychological distress was associated with viewing stressful content.[11]

There is evidence of a relationship between time spent on social media and depression as well as social media-related activities and depression.[12] This was contrary to the studies done by Banjanin et al.[13] and Blomfield Neira and Barber et al.[14] which found no relationship between the time spent on social media and depression.

In this study, 54.2% of students felt that filters need to be set up for social media during humanitarian crisis, and this was highly significant (P ≤ 0.001) when compared BDS and MDS students' responses. This was similar to the study done by Radwan et al.[3] 76.2% of study participants know that sharing misinformation on COVID-19 is illegal, but this was statistically insignificant.

The government of India created a chatbot to curb misinformation on social media, to avoid the panic of the coronavirus, and create awareness on COVID-19.[15]

Limitations

As this study was cross-sectional in design, the causal variables could not be identified, which can be considered a limitation of the present study. The use of convenience sampling limited the generalizability of study findings to a larger population. The use of a closed-end questionnaire limited the opinion of the respondents.

Recommendations

There is a need to set up social media filters and follow specific policies during a humanitarian crisis such as COVID-19. Further studies are required to assess the panic created over COVID-19 in social media among the general population.


  Conclusion Top


The present study concluded that the panic created in social media over COVID-19 had an impact on dental students.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
González-Padilla DA, Tortolero-Blanco L. Social media influence in the COVID-19 pandemic. Int Braz J Urol 2020;46:120-4.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Kim KS, Sin SC, Yoo-Lee EY. Undergraduates' use of social media as information sources. Coll Res Libr 2014;75:442-57.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Radwan E, Radwan A, Radwan W. The role of social media in spreading panic among primary and secondary school students during the COVID-19 pandemic: An online questionnaire study from the Gaza Strip, Palestine. Heliyon 2020;6:e05807.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
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Baruah TD. Effectiveness of social media as a tool of communication and its potential for technology enabled connections: A micro-level study. Int J Sci Res Publ 2012;2:1-10.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
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Tasnim S, Hossain MM, Mazumder H. Impact of rumors and misinformation on COVID-19 in social media. J Prev Med Public Health 2020;53:171-4.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
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Shu K, Sliva A, Wang S, Tang J, Liu H. Fake news detection on social media: A data mining perspective. SIGKDD Explor 2017;19:22-36.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
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Davis LL. Instrument review: Getting the most from your panel of experts. Appl Nurs Res 1992;5:194-7.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Gao J, Zheng P, Jia Y, Chen H, Mao Y, Chen S, et al. Mental health problems and social media exposure during COVID-19 outbreak. PLoS One 2020;15:e0231924.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Quinn EK, Fazel SS, Peters CE. The instagram infodemic: Cobranding of conspiracy theories, coronavirus disease 2019 and authority-questioning beliefs. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw 2021;24:573-7.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Ahmad AR, Murad HR. The impact of social media on panic during the COVID-19 pandemic in Iraqi Kurdistan: Online questionnaire study. J Med Internet Res 2020;22:e19556.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Chao M, Xue D, Liu T, Yang H, Hall BJ. Media use and acute psychological outcomes during COVID-19 outbreak in China. J Anxiety Disord 2020;74:102248.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
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Keles B, McCrae N, Grealish A. A systematic review: The influence of social media on depression, anxiety and psychological distress in adolescents. Int J Adolesc Youth 2020;25:79-93.  Back to cited text no. 12
    
13.
Banjanin N, Banjanin N, Dimitrijevic I, Pantic I. Relationship between internet use and depression: Focus on physiological mood oscillations, social networking and online addictive behavior. Comput Hum Behav 2015;43:308-12.  Back to cited text no. 13
    
14.
Blomfield Neira CJ, Barber BL. Social networking site use: Linked to adolescents' social self-concept, self-esteem, and depressed mood. Aust J Psychol 2014;66:56-64.  Back to cited text no. 14
    
15.
Sathish R, Manikandan R, Priscila SS, Sara BV, Mahaveerakannan R. A report on the impact of information technology and social media on COVID-19. In: 2020 3rd International Conference on Intelligent Sustainable Systems (ICISS). New York: IEEE; 2020. p. 224-30.  Back to cited text no. 15
    



 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]



 

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