Social media misinformation during pandemic causes rifts between friends and loved ones

With people looking to connect with others during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no surprise that social media has seen a boom. But platforms like Facebook can also be the reason that relationships come apart.
Facebook can be a place for people to reunite with old friends and classmates. This was true for 61-year-old Harrington Park resident Cathy Collins-Mullen. But those interactions also became a source of pain and anger during the pandemic.
“I think I just had had some much anger the way information was being kind of used,” Collins-Mullen says.
Her mother died in a nursing home about a year ago. Claire Collins was never tested for COVID but was later labeled as a probable case. It happened as the virus was beginning to take over.
Collins-Mullen says that she was desperate for answers and had no trust in the state government or the White House. On top of that, nursing home deaths became a political issue that was dissected over social media.
“I want my mother to count and I just kind of felt like [people] were dismissing, [people] were denying my mother, so it was very painful,” she says.
And a lot of it was based on bad information weaponized during the pandemic.
“There have been studies that show that older people are actually more susceptible to misinformation online than younger generations,” says Dr. Joel Penney of the Schools of Communications & Media at Montclair State University.
Penney says that younger people are more easily able to spot false information.
“Whereas there’s concerns older adults are used to the gatekeeping that has happened with newspapers and television networks and is no longer there with the internet,” he says.
For people like Collins-Mullen, this has caused real rifts in relationships – people she says she cares about.
“I was just kind of getting too painful, so we had this agreement, kind of take our friendship offline,” she says.
She says that this was last year with a longtime friend. She says that they are still working on rehabilitating their relationship and that she is eager to be able to continue these kinds of conversations in person.