ABSTRACT: The study investigated the effectiveness of Facebook in an awareness campaign against Coronavirus amidst Ikeja LGA residents. It is not an overstatement that during the outbreak of Coronavirus lots of people were restless and panicking about the virus as a result people were focusing on how to prevent the virus since there was no vaccine for the virus until recent when there are emerging vaccines. The study is anchored on Source Credibility and Technology Determinism and Theory. A survey research method was adopted in which questionnaire were administered to 384 respondents using Krejcie & Morgan formula to derive the sample size. The data collected was analyzed using descriptive statistics with emphasis on frequency and percentage method. The finds of the study revealed that Facebook was and is still effective during the outbreak of COVID19 as a substantial number of respondents are very agreed that Facebook was effective in creating awareness campaigns and curbing the spread of COVID 19. Also, respondents have a positive attitude about COVID19 awareness on Facebook. Facebook is highly used to get COVID19 information, it is not an overstatement that it is true that Facebook has helped in curbing the spread of COVID-19 while the major challenge during the outbreak of COVID19 includes fake news, information overload and electricity. The study recommended that social media especially Facebook should develop good skills and bear in mind the ethics and law associated with writing and publishing in order to disassociate themselves from those who will be publishing, sharing unverifiable information that can cause disasters. Stakeholders should develop proactive and responsive programmes to prevent, create awareness and educate people before and during the outbreak of any disease such as COVID-19 in order for people to prepare ahead and prevent such phenomena.
1.1 Background to the Study
The emergence of Coronavirus as a global pandemic is of paramount concern to the world and researchers in particular as a result, libraries on a daily basis witness an influx of researches (Annune, Agoh & Annune, 2020). The coronavirus disease otherwise known as (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. It was first reported by WHO on the 31st of December 2019 and the virus emerged from Wuhan, China. The cause of the disease was soon confirmed as a novel coronavirus, and the infection has since spread to many countries worldwide and has become a pandemic disease (Araz & Hersh, 2020). Several websites and mass media have disseminated information about COVID-19 and have given different instructions to their audience about ways to prevent the spread of the virus, such as keeping a distance between themselves and others, using masks, and washing their hands or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
However, Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC, 2020) affirmed that Corona-virus is a new strain of the virus that has not been previously identified in human beings. They advanced that, SARS-Cov-2 is the virus that causes corona-virus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This disease was initially named the 2019-novel corona-virus (2019-nCoV) on 12 January 2020 but was later officially named by World Health Organization (WHO) as corona-virus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Although, Annune Agoh & Annune (2020) cited in Guo et al, (2020) stated that, Corona-virus Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee proposed to name the new Corona-virus as SARS-CoV-2, both were issued on 11 February 2020.
Medical experts noted that the virus is transmitted to another person when an individual comes in contact with an infected person, there are high chances of an individual becoming a victim and the end result in most cases is death as no vaccine has been discovered yet until recent when there are lots of emerging vaccines. As a result, governments adopt sensitization and awareness creation as tools to curb the spread of this notorious COVID-19 (Araz & Hersh, 2020).
Annune Agoh & Annune (2020) cited in WHO (2020), noted that Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a flu-like illness caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome. It is an unknown acute respiratory disease that spreads mainly through the respiratory tract killing thousands of people across the nations, countries and continents.
NCDC (2020) affirmed that the Federal Ministry of Health confirmed the first case of COVID19 on 27th February 2020 in Lagos adding that the victim was an Italian citizen but work in Nigeria who returned from Milan, Italy. His case was confirmed by the Virology Laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. It should be noted that coronavirus case across the globe is high as 127,519,788 out of which 2,792,568 deaths is recorded while 102,778,857 recovered. According to NCDC (2021) coronavirus cases across Nigeria is 162,641, 150,466 have been discharged whereas 2049 have dead from COVID19 complications out of a total of 1,767,694 sampled. Lagos, FCT, Plateau, Kaduna, Rivers, Oyo, Edo, Ogun, Kano, Ondo and Kwara states were the states most affected (NCDC, 2021). It should be noted that as of 29th, March 2021 NCDC confirmed 48 cases.
Also, the first lockdown was on Monday, 30th March 2020 mainly for Lagos, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and Ogun State. It should be added that the lockdown was announced as part of the measures to contain the spread of the virus because NCDC confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country to rise to 111 in the country (Olarewaju, 2020). Later across the country which led to the emergency closure of all schools, businesses (market), religious places, social gatherings, work from home, virtual meetings etc.
However, mass media ( radio, television, newspaper, billboard) etc and new media ( website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram) are employed to create awareness in order for the public to be fully aware especially the preventive measure as there is no vaccine for the virus at that time so the best is to avoid having it. Social media is an efficient source of information and an effective means for staying abreast of the vast amount of medical knowledge especially for keeping social distancing as one of the ways to avert the spread of the virus.
The situation of the corona outbreak also affected the decision‐making of the government and organisations (Al Eid & Arnout, 2020). However, to reduce the physical interaction and get awareness, or update regarding the current situation, social media platforms have become a significant tool for communication and the continuation of people’s routines. Bailey, Bonifield, and Arias (2018) examined that online social networking sites are useful to measure and to understand the geographical structure of the social networks.
Social distancing, travel restrictions, quarantine, and closing the business outlets have changed the fabric of society. With people have been forced out of the safety and well‐being of their routine, their social media have taken at the centre stage more than ever, and to global social networking and discussions (Chan, Nickson, Rudolph, Lee, & Joynt, 2020; Thelwall & Thelwall, 2020). Social media information has a wide effect on the individuals and groups that connect to the online world to seek information for families, friends, and the general public (Mageto, 2019).
Meanwhile, during the lockdown and aftermath lots of users used Facebook to seek understanding and information about COVID 19 especially the symptoms, preventive measures and treatment etc. therefore, for the purpose of this study, the effort will dwell on Facebook especially how it was employed to seek relevant information about COVID 19. Thus, it is against this background that this study investigates the effectiveness of Facebook in the awareness campaigns and curbing of covid-19 amidst Ikeja LGA residents.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
During the outbreak of Coronavirus, how to prevent it was the major information and knowledge that everyone is seeking because is a new disease with some death recorded in foreign countries where they are not only advanced technology but also advanced in manpower. This has necessitated the need for the help of technological tools like Facebook not only to ease but also to make the information and opinions search and shared quickly. Information and Communication Technology especially social media and particularly Facebook has brought a number of improvements to information seeking (Kwanya, 2014; Bui & Moran, 2020).
However, Simpson and Obdalova (2014) argument was that to perform optimally in this digital age, one has to be digital literate and up to date in the skilful use of modern technology like Facebook. Hence, Fortunati and O’Sullivan, (2020) assert that the internet has also stood as inseparable from the digital mobile device, as it garners better and easier access to the internet on it. Owing to this, the WWW and Internet are indispensable information-gathering tools that present users with a wide and large range of information.
Nonetheless, studies have revealed that most Nigerians lack the requisite knowledge/finesse to operate in the new media environment (Facebook) that is transforming the nature and mode of operation of the society (Obijiofor, 2003; Obalanlege, 2015; Okon & Eleba, 2013; Agbo & Chukwuma, 2017; Nwagbara & Asak, 2016; Bui & Moran, 2020).
It is germane, though unfortunate, to add here that the new technologies in society have increased the craze of unethical practices (where anyone can just write and disseminate information on the web without editing), thereby threatening the integrity and dignity of the new technology especially when people are crazy about information about COVID19.
Similarly, Wilson (2007) had argued that an overwhelming quantity of unevaluated information with regards to accuracy and relevance poses a big problem of credibility or the possibility of misleading users seeking information. In this respect, skills to access and sift through the mountain of information available on the Internet, as well as to use only salient, relevant and credible information is of essence to people. This is a huge task for people who are not trained in the knowledge and application of Internet tools.
In Nigeria, one is not certain to what extent people employ the use of social media (Facebook) in seeking the right information about COVID19, based on their relative knowledge and skills (Nwanne, 2016). This study, therefore, set out to investigate the effectiveness of Facebook in the awareness campaign and curbing of covid-19 with a specific focus on Ikeja LGA residents. Westlund (2013) asserted that it is still unclear as to how many people seek information on COVID19.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
1. To investigate the extent to which Facebook has effectively used in creating awareness and curbing the spread of Covid-19 amidst Ikeja LGA residents.
2. To examine the attitude of Ikeja LGA residents towards the use of Facebook in creating awareness in curbing the spread of COVID-19.
3. To ascertain how Facebook has helped in curbing the spread of COVID-19 among Ikeja LGA residents.
1.5 Research Questions
1. To what extent is Facebook effective in awareness campaigns and curbing the spread of Covid-19 amidst Ikeja LGA residents?
2. What is the attitude of Ikeja LGA residents towards the use of Facebook in creating awareness in curbing the spread of COVID-19?
3. How has Facebook helped in curbing the spread of COVID-19 among Ikeja LGA residents?
1.6 Significance of the Study
This study is intended at finding out the level of knowledge that patients have about COVID-19 prior to the time they are victims. This study is also essential to serving stakeholders in the health sector with the needed insight and encouragement to do more in the area of COVID-19.
This study will equip both the patients and the public at large on COVID-19 ranging from the COVID-19 statistics, causes, warning symptoms, preventive tips, control measures, myths and others while it will equally educate them on the benefit associated with vaccination so that lots of people will offer themselves for vaccination.
Government and policy formulators will equally benefit from the research to make laws that will improve infrastructure and regulations of the health sector particularly in addressing COVID-19 and other related issues while it will make private investors establish in the health sector. Also, the government will see the need to equip the hospitals with tools and personnel to be able to cater for COVID-19.
This study will help journalists to be more proactive in their reporting and strategizing especially on how to create the desired campaigns and various awareness programs because awareness carried out by the mass media has the potentials to provoke public discussion on the issues of concern; it will indeed enhance public knowledge and practices that will result into a change of attitude and behaviour. Therefore, apart from contributing to health-related research literature, the study among other things will show the extent to which mass media create awareness.
World Health Organisation and other health agencies are going to benefit from this study by gaining insight on the need to create more awareness, education and knowledge on COVID-19 like other diseases and illnesses in order to make individuals have depth knowledge on the warning symptoms, causes and how to prevent COVID-19 while the findings will go a long way in attracting the attention of government, non-governmental organizations and other foreign organisations who are concerned about how to reduce COVID-19 across the world.
Similarly, the findings of this study will serve as additional literature on the topic for students and researchers who will like to carry out similar research while, the material will form bulk literature that exists in the field of mass communication, journalism and media studies, etc.
1.6 Scope of the Study
The study which investigates the effectiveness of Facebook in the awareness campaign and curbing of COVID-19 has been narrowed in scope to Ikeja LGA residents. Thus, the geographical scope of this study shall be within Lagos state. The choice of the resident of Ikeja LGA in Lagos state was due to the proximity to the researcher, inadequate time to study all Lagosians among other logistics.
Also, the demographic factors of the respondents will be carefully studied before the administration of research instruments such factors include: age, gender, academic level e.t.c.
1.7 Operational Definition of Terms
Though the various concepts in this study are clear, yet, some concepts need to explain for clarity purposes.
Effectiveness: In this study, effectiveness means the level of efficiency of Facebook in curbing the spread of Coronavirus.
Facebook: In this study, Facebook means a means of responsive communication among people of all ages and professions.
Awareness campaign: It refers to various means of creating enlightenment and educating people about a phenomenon such as the use of radio, TV, social media, billboard, interpersonal communication etc.
Curb: This has to do with various means employed to prevent the occurrence of a phenomenon such as COVID-19.