Everyone has one, that family member who posts on social media a little too frequently about the latest multilevel marketing company selling energy drinks or skin care and won’t listen to reason when people tell them it’s a pyramid scheme.
Eventually, they get put on probation or in Facebook jail, notifications from their page muted for the foreseeable future and forgotten about until the next family get-together at Thanksgiving or Easter.
That is, until the coronavirus hit.
Family feuds on Facebook aren’t just pushing people to put their relatives on probation anymore — they’re actually unfriending them, according to a new survey.
At least 15% of people interviewed said they had unfriended a family member over a disagreement about COVID-19, marketing firm Digital Third Coast reported. Another 20% did the same to their friends when an argument over the virus ensued.
“Already a breeding ground for lively debates, tension surrounding social media has only increased during COVID-19,” the report reads. “Despite a majority claiming social media causes more harm than good when it comes to getting COVID-19 information, usage has increased for 2 out of 5 respondents.”
To complete the survey, the marketing firm interviewed 2,030 people from April 28 to April 30, 2020. The average age of respondents was 39, while 51% were male and 49% were female.
Among political affiliations, 44% were Democrat, 30% were Republican, and 27% were independent.
Since the pandemic arrived in the U.S., Americans aren’t just engaging with news more, they’re also getting on social media more often. Of those surveyed, Digital Third Coast reported 66% said they were consuming more news, and 40% said their social media usage had increased.
People were more likely to tune into Facebook to catch up on their news (49%), compared with Twitter (25%), Reddit (14%) and Instagram (12%).
At the same time, 69% said “social media causes more harm than good when it comes to getting accurate COVID-19 information.”
The public infighting between family members and friends might be a reflection of that.
According to the survey, at least 24% of respondents said they’d been in a fight with someone on social media over the virus. Another 21% said those fights were with friends or family members.
People aren’t, however, retaining much from all that news and media consumption, the survey found.
“When asked how many had tested positive for COVID-19, nearly 1 in 3 answered under 500,000. The real number of cases was 1 million at the time the survey was conducted,” Digital Third Coast reported. “In terms of the number of lives lost, 23% answered under 30,000. The real number was 58,000 at the time the survey was conducted.”
Less than half of the respondents could identify a picture of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
But 64% knew who Dr. Deborah Birx is — the “world-renowned global health official” appointed as the response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, according to MarketWatch.
Both make frequent appearances during the White House press briefings on COVID-19, though only 7% of those surveyed by Digital Third Coast said they trust President Donald Trump most for updates on the virus.
Just 1% pointed to Vice President Mike Pence, head of the Coronavirus Task Force, as their most trusted source for updates.
Republicans were more likely to find the briefings useful, while between 32% and 36% of Democrats and independents, respectively, could say the same.
There does seem to be a consensus surrounding burnout from coronavirus news.
According to the survey, at least 54% of respondents said they’d cut back on their news consumption to cope with a myriad of emotions — from anger to anxiety — resulting from COVID-19.
About one-third said they were avoiding watching the news entirely, Digital Third Coast reported, and more than half reported feeling overwhelmed, angry, hopeless or afraid.
Most respondents said they were experiencing burnout (67%) or anxiety (68%).