Voice of Real Australia: Is social media fueling vaccine hesitancy?

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Police officers at an anti-lockdown protest during the COVID lockdown in the Melbourne CBD in August 2021. Picture: Shutterstock

Police officers at an anti-lockdown protest during the COVID lockdown in the Melbourne CBD in August 2021. Picture: Shutterstock

Demonstrators rallied in Melbourne last weekend against Victoria's contentious pandemic bill and vaccine mandates.

Despite the significant numbers, police declared the protest peaceful, with only one arrest made.

You can look at the photos from the protests and wonder whether there are really that many people dissatisfied with the pandemic bill and getting the vaccine?

Last year, I had a discussion with an older relative, who did not support lockdowns and did not trust COVID vaccinations.

At the time, they were a recent convert to social media.

Over the following months, I was sent all sorts of unverified clips from across the internet to debate points and theories on a range of topics. At the same time, their business was being severely impacted by lockdowns and border closures and they had become frustrated with government and the media.

They were trying to find someone who was equally as dissatisfied with the current situation as they were and through what they were seeing in their social media feeds, they believed everybody was in the same boat.

They were not keen on any form of censorship, including removing comments from social posts. We had many discussions about where that type of thing has a place, from my perspective working for a news publisher.

As an experienced journalist with a university degree in my field, I began my career at a time when there was no social media. In later years, social media verification became a skill being taught in our newsrooms to deal with the rise of #FakeNews. We know the telltale signs to look for.

If social media is your only news source and you don't consume news and information from a variety of places, you're more likely to get a one-sided opinion driven by algorithms.

An example is what happens for those who read lots of stories, posts and pages online about their preferred political party.

Your device begins serving up more stories about that party. If that's all you're seeing, you can start to believe it's the whole picture.

In Victoria, where we've had lockdown after lockdown, some have been incredibly frustrated with the State Government. The economy has taken a massive hit and many businesses have been decimated.

For some, protesting is a form of trying to claw back some control, but at what cost?

Next month's economic growth figures for the September quarter - which provides a comprehensive guide to the state of the nation - will show the extent of the damage inflicted from the Delta variant and whether growth forecasts for the year can still be made.

As soon as our economy can get back on track, hopefully it's a shift in the right direction for all of us.

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