Social media turns into a ‘helpline’ as India struggles with a COVID-19 surge

The usage of social media nowadays has taken a 180-degree turn. The social media platforms in India these days are no longer about cool photos, funny memes or political jokes. But rather the platforms have become a COVID-19 helpline where hundreds of Indians are turning to social media in desperate attempts to secure hospital beds for their family members as the country’s overwhelmed medical system struggles to cope with the devastating second wave of the COVID-19 infections.

Whether it’s Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, the platforms are filled with pleas from people in need of oxygen and hospital beds for their family members, friends and relatives. The grim situation of COVID-19 in India has turned everyone to social media platforms seeking and craving for help. Various groups on social media platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook are flooded with appeals for urgent needs to help distressed citizens in several cities across the country.

“Urgently need a bed for 56-year-old COVID patient having severe difficulty in breathing. No beds available in any hospital, pls help urgently.”
“Urgent need of ICU bed in Delhi!! My friend’s Dad is very critical. His oxygen level also dropped to 35 last night. Please help! He needs proper attention and care. Please help! Please…”
“My uncle needs an ICU bed immediately. No hospital beds, no oxygen available. Not able to get a bed since yesterday. Kindly help us asap!”

These are a few of the pleas that are very much visible on almost every social platform. Hospitals are reaching their capacities, only a few hours of oxygen left are some of the problems that India currently is facing and everyone’s aware of it. Hashtags like #COVIDEmergency2021, #Corona2ndwave and #IndiaFightBack are trending on social media as many people in India are seeking ICU beds, oxygen, and plasma, while others are trying to direct those in need to suppliers.

India’s COVID wave on social media:

As there are unaccountable number of posts on social media related to COVID-19 by numerous social media accounts criticizing the administration’s response to the pandemic, it has been reported that the government has ordered social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to censor certain posts that include criticism. In defence of the censorship, the government argued that such posts could be misleading and could hinder the emergency response efforts by creating a panic situation.

Various sources reported that many tweets that were removed either had content related to the shortage of medicine, beds, mass cremations, and the gathering of crowds at Kumbh Mela amid the pandemic. 

Many posts including criticisms from politicians were also taken down by the platforms as the government felt that the posts used the images that were out of context and had the capacity to turn the current situation even worse than it is.

Can social media help us in such times?

Well, I think this question doesn’t even need an answer as it is now evident that social media is not just for fun, but can also act as an important tool in difficult times. India is facing one of the worst crises it has ever faced in the past and the way people are standing for each other and lending a helping hand to even strangers is something we need right now and is amazing! With such togetherness that’s nowadays is very much visible on social media, it is possible for us to get out of this crisis together.   

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