Social media is being used in a unique way to connect Vernonites to volunteers and service providers amid the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic. (Caitlin Clow - Morning Star)

Vernon volunteers co-ordinate COVID-19 relief on social media

Social media is being used for more than spreading news and updates of novel coronavirus: expert

The Vernon and Area Community Forum on Facebook has served as an online platform for the area for around seven years, administrator Dawn Tucker said, it’s role always has been to form connections in the community.

But now, the forum taking on a new kind of role.

Tucker started a thread March 17 to connect the forum’s more than 15,000 members amid the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

“Are you in need of something?” the post reads. “Are you able to help?”

A string of comments poured in from members offering to help those in need of deliveries and grocery pick ups, while others said they required face masks and food.

Tucker said Vernonites are known for their generosity. Whether it’s helping a family in crisis or donating to a cause, that generosity doesn’t waver, she said.

This thread is just another example of that, she added, saying t’s another example of the types of people Vernon and the forum she has moderated for several years is comprised of.

“We help facilitate not just information but an opportunity for community to come together and bring together people who may need things and those who can offer services,” Tucker said.

Tyler Finley, Okanagan College public affairs manager of marketing and communications, said this is the first time a global pandemic of this size has taken place in the social media era.

“Social media is being used for remarkable good and the incredibly rapid transmission of information from the World Health Organization, federal and provincial health officials,” he said.

But finding a balance between staying informed and limiting screen time is vital, Finley added.

“Take breaks,” he said. “Be informed, but don’t be glued to your phone because that can have mental health consequences.”

Tucker echoed those sentiments, noting the forum tries to strike that balance between news updates and positivity.

“We’re faced with so much information that could potentially be seen as negative,” Tucker said.

“It’s really important that we focus on the positive.”

Finley said he’s counselling his colleagues and students to be weary of media sources and scrutinize all content read online.

“There’s a lot of misinformation floating around and that can be very dangerous,” Finley said.

Meanwhile, the goal of the forum, Tucker said, is to be a force of good.

“We’re trying to be a place where people won’t be overwhelmed with information and we try to have a positive influence on our community,” Tucker said.

“Our members know they can trust to come to us.”

Similar online forums have been established amid the evolving pandemic.

In Kelowna, two residents formed a group called Kelowna Community Helpers to co-ordinate community efforts to help those most in need.

Meanwhile, in Calgary, more than 10,000 people have joined YYC COVID-19 Volunteers on Facebook.

There, people are putting together hampers, providing information on accessing EI and collaborating child care efforts after schools and daycares were closed.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Long line of trucks at B.C. crossing after Canada’s borders close to ‘non-essential’ travel

READ MORE: Interior Health postpones most non-urgent surgeries


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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