Words by Rebecca (she/her), 24 ACT
2019 saw the beginning of a worldwide pandemic that drastically reduced movement, life, social gatherings, employment, and so much more. The world was forced to face something that was unheard of, we went in completely blind. Families were isolated, faces unseen, vaccinations introduced in hopes to save a few.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of how misinformation and disinformation tactics are used to impact one’s views and persuade them into a certain way of thinking. There will always be pushback, and disagreement, which is healthy. A bit of healthy debate or even heated discussion supports collaboration of ideas and forms varying ideologies within our society.
However, when factual information needs to be advertised and acknowledged and in a fast-paced manner such as what was needed during the pandemic, these tactics of spreading defence articles with little truth, make it increasingly difficult to know what that truth is.
When the news broke of the COVID vaccine that would hope to save the lives of fragile Australians, it was met with controversy and criticism. The public would see article after article speaking against the vaccine, and no one knew what to do.
The impact of COVID-19 on society was hard-hitting, and catastrophic to many.
People were locked in their homes, not bearing the thought of even stepping outside, in case it got them, or a loved one. Bank accounts getting lower by the day, and employers struggling to reassure their team of job security.
The government was overrun with requests for support, guidance, or any sort of relief that it would end. Businesses closing their doors daily, online shopping becoming a hit, and working from home prominent in many households.
One strain conquered, another entering the world. Vaccination after vaccination. Lockdown upon lockdown. Death after death. Everyone questioned when would the world go back to normal?
Social media played a huge role in the world transitioning to life with COVID-19. From zoom calls to online businesses, the way technology was being used had not been seen before. But whether it was for the better, it divided many.
Daily Facebook posts about the intent of the Government relating to this new virus continued to hit our screens. News broadcasts far and wide questioned whether it was all fake, and to this day some are still unsure.
Despite the hard-hitting facts society was forced to face daily, uncertainty remained.
Was COVID-19 a hoax by the government?
Was it cooked up in a lab to help maintain the population? Was it to maximise profit from the vaccine? Was it to track society using 5G? The conspiracies are endless, and the questions that followed were relentless.
With the circulation of these conspiracies, we saw parts of the world begin to fight back against the social and economic changes that had been imposed on them through government-imposed lockdowns. Anger that we no longer had control over our own bodies, or our children’s. Protests that started few and far between were happening more regularly. Society didn’t want to be locked away for a “fake” virus, they wanted their life back.
These groups that believed the conspiracies believe that the government is controlling both theirs and their children’s lives, and that is what provoked the pushback from COVID-19. Although the benefits of the vaccine were seemingly obvious to many, for these individuals it was a tactic to take control.
The impact of this disinformation caused divides to families, new parents, healthcare workers, and the government. How do we know who to believe? Conversations started, and differing opinions were evident. It was a battle to get their point across. What could they say to convince the rest it was real, and dangerous?
The drastic change from “face mask mandatory” to “no jab no pay” was a relief to some but scared many. Opinions spread through families, the people you trust the most, overpowering what the news was saying.
The information being produced from healthcare workers was quickly met with a defence from society and the groups that believed it was fake. It started with one vaccine to save your life, and then booster after booster to keep the risk of infection low. Protests, Facebook posts, posters, signs, and screaming matches in front of healthcare providers was their defence mechanism. This lead directly to the idea that all future vaccines were associated with COVID-19. Frontline workers were forced to hide their uniforms if they were to go out in public.
How far would someone go to prove it was all a lie? Especially when it was based on what they had read online, with no factual evidence?
Fast forward to today, 2023, four years on.
Given the negativity we faced from COVID-19 for the last four years, and the reactions from the public that came with it, many are nervous to see both physical and online pushback from society and the groups that believe it was all a ploy.
Although the catastrophic impacts of COVID-19 are seemingly in the past, it is still prominent in our world. Now we face the repercussions of the effect it had on society. Will there be a recession? Has inflation hit its peak? Will we face another battle over the last packet of toilet paper?
What will the world look like in another four years? No one knows, and it is the unknown that haunts us all.
Illustration by Aileen. You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenngstudio