Over the past couple of weeks, I have seen in my social media feeds (Facebook, Twitter, and multiple blogs) several posts by different people explaining how the Coronvirus pandemic is not as bad as the Government or experts have made it out to be, based on an authors' interpretation of the data they have available to them.
In fairly normal times the second-guessing of government data analysis is a good thing and a part of being in a democracy. Hell, I am likely to be fairly skeptical about many statistics or press releases by the government and have been for many years, well beyond the problems with the current Administration. However, in the middle of a pandemic choosing to deliver a rosier picture than the people who study and do this work for a living is at best dangerous and at the worst will let people believe it is okay to ignore the expert's advice and result in the pandemic becoming more deadly.
Sure we can write and share those things as a part of our right to freedom of speech, but I guess the question now is more - should we?
Sometimes we need to stop and think about the information that we share and also read across the internet. You know: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and oh so many websites. We should be critically thinking about who is doing the data analysis, what is their background, what data do they really have access to, what are their sources, are they cherry-picking the data to meet a certain bias, what is their bias (political, economic, medical, to spread misinformation) and so many other questions that we need to think about before deciding to press that publish or share button responsibly.
We need to think more about why we are sharing the data or information that we choose to add to our social media timelines or blogs. Stop and reflect on our own motives are, along with who it serves when we share posts/data or other information. Also, we need to think about who our audience is that are going to be reading our social media posts, along with what are the possible effect that what we share will have on those that read it - especially, if it is not accurate.
This can be scary, especially when the data being shared is contrary to what the experts are providing.
Especially, when what information most experts in and out of government are providing now, publicly conflicts badly with what the politicians want it to say. They have even persuaded a President who only a short time ago was claiming that the pandemic was a hoax created by his political rivals, to begin changing his messaging to the belief that it could get very bad over the course of the next month.
So sharing misinformation or statistical models that are using bias or incomplete data is really concerning when they talk about the COVID-19 pandemic projections and why we have the Personal Distancing/Stay at home orders in place. That the expert's models and recommendations are not in line with what the politicians want it to be in my mind give more creditability, than if it was just more of the party line.
The big question then becomes what if you are wrong and people die as a result of your data analysis and/or opinions that you shared online. It is important to think about the consequences of what we write because there are consequences and whether we want to believe it or not, even teeny tiny little blogs like this one can have an impact for good or woe to the readers who stumble across it from time-to-time.
Unfortunately, those of us who write various opinions or provide alternate analysis of situations probably will never know the effect of your analysis and attempt to come across as an "online" expert may have on other people who read your social media posts. That is the conundrum that we all must face when publishing our thoughts online, the effect our words will have on others.
The problem with all statistics, you can make just about anything look the way you want it to, depending upon how the data is manipulated and that is truly the scary part.
Below is a pretty good read for all of us who attempt to play experts on social media and sort of want to provide our opinions on the data they are seeing versus the data that the government or others are giving out. Especially, when it does not fit our model, view or opinion about what is happening around us.
While it is prudent to have a certain amount of healthy skepticism about what you hear, read and possibly see in videos, I put a LOT more credence on the statistics and information that the epidemiologists are providing regarding the Coronovirus pandemic than I am someone who is not a trained epidemiologist.
This post was written for and first appeared on One Foot In Reality.