Currently submitted to: Journal of Medical Internet Research
Date Submitted: Sep 18, 2020
Open Peer Review Period: Sep 18, 2020 - Nov 13, 2020
(currently open for review)
Public Engagement in Officials’ Stories about COVID-19 across Social Media, an Iraqi Case Study
The world has not attended a major challenge like coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic for several decades. Effective two-way communication across social media facilitates public engagement in health authorities and officials in a positive way which contributes to minimizing damage, impacts, and victims.
This study examines public engagement in officials’ stories about COVID-19 on social media. This examination is to realize public responses and engagement particularly during the lockdown which allows us to understand the efforts and contributions of health authorities and officials on social media to give instructions and preventive measures to the public and how the public engage.
Method: This study adopted a survey method through an online questionnaire using 'Google Forms' (N= 511) with responses from adults aged 18 and over. The data collection was carried out from the first week of March until the mid of April 2020. This period was in the quarantine days ordered by the Iraqi government (the first week of March to the end of May). The duration of data collection was very important because the officials were focusing on the measures to prevent the disease and giving instructions across social media to communicate and interact with the public.
Result: We revealed that the fear of the pandemic led people to change their perception of the government authorities and officials, and this argument was statistically approved (r=0.171**, p < 0.000). We revealed that the fear of the pandemic led people to change their perception of the government authorities and officials because before the outbreak of COVID-19 the public was not satisfied with the government authorities and officials performance, but during the outbreak, the public engaged with the officials positively, (r= 0.156**, p <0.000), (r=0.127**, p <0.000).
Conclusion: The pandemic can be invested in restructuring the relationship between the government and the public positively, particularly to raise the public awareness of diseases, prevention, hygiene, and the practice of healthy behaviors. We found that only 191 (%38.2) of the participants did not try to consult the information from global sources about COVID-19. This indicates that through the internet and social media the public can potentially engage with global parties not only the local authorities.
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