Social Media Use, Disbelief and (Mis)information During a Pandemic: An Examination of Young Adult Nigerians’ Interactions with COVID-19 Public Health Messaging
Keywords:COVID-19, Pandemic, Public health, Social media, Media messages, Codes, Encoding, Decoding, Disbelief, Misinformation, Young adults, Nigeria, Lagos, Ajegunle
This study contributes to transdisciplinary understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic through an examination of perceptions of public health messages as consumed primarily through social media by a purposively enlisted set of young adult Nigerians. The research used focus group discussions and in-depth interviews to elicit the views of 11 young adults, aged 21 to 24, resident in Ajegunle, a low-income community in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. The study identifies the centrality of social media platforms to the respondents’ processes of meaning-making, and draws on Hall’s (1980) encoding/decoding model in order to bring to the fore their oppositional interpretations of public health messages. The study also identifies respondents’ varying levels of disbelief about the realities of COVID-19, their mistrust of the government officials conveying and enforcing decisions to combat the pandemic, and the propensity for the social media messages they consume and propagate to serve as channels of misinformation.
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