My colleagues, fitness trainers, trainers, trainers and influencers:
For the love of people’s health, please do not use your platform to spread misinformation about COVID-19. Really please. As someone who has earned a Masters and Ph.D. In public health (geared towards health communication in part), I am terrified by some of the posts and comments I’ve seen from fitness or yoga reviews in the gram – quite frankly – that people blow the virus disproportionately or so it’s actually not so big deal. Everything we’ve also heard from our current administration.
Spreading this misinformation is important because it misleads beliefs and behaviors. This is detrimental not only to your individual followers or customers, but also to the general public. COVID-19 is real. This is a global pandemic. Anyone infected with COVID-19 can spread the virus further, extending its lifespan. Public health communication researchers and practitioners work tirelessly to determine how best to get the right information to the right people. Dissemination of misinformation can reverse all of this.
As managers and role models in the fitness and exercise sector, I want us to do better. Your followers and customers expect fitness advice, training and specialist knowledge from you. They see you as a reliable source and are used to taking your advice on anything about the spa. You are prepared to believe what you are getting out of it, especially if you identify yourself or have been otherwise anointed as a “health professional.” You’ve heard it before: with great strength comes great responsibility. We have to take this responsibility and take it seriously.
I understand there is a wealth of COVID-19 information floating around, so much of which is contradicting and therefore potentially confusing and frustrating. The most well-meaning of us can easily fall into the trap of accepting the accuracy of something if we are not careful. Add to this the fear for our own health or careers and grief for the life we lived before March, as well as the anger and concern for our reality today, and we are especially prepared to respond to COVID-19 news , especially when it comes to headlines specifically designed to activate negative emotions.
Reacting too quickly to COVID-19 messages without prior verification can lead to misinformation being spread unintentionally. In a social media sense, this means to send, share, repost, or comment on something that spreads uninformed or ill-informed news. If you do this, you have now become a vector. You are now continuing the pandemic of misinformation and contributing to the pandemic of COVID-19.