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Pitching In

Like many members of the Dartmouth community, who have been eager to find ways to provide support to others during the COVID-19 pandemic, Aurora Drew, PhD, decided to answer the call when she saw the request for additional volunteer moderators posted on the Upper Valley (NH/VT) Facebook Group page.

Aurora Drew, PhD (Photo: Rob Strong)

“I was sitting on my couch, isolated in my home, and waiting for the results of my COVID-19 test—I have a long history of asthma and had some serious respiratory illnesses this winter, so my doctor arranged for me to get tested, which turned out to be negative,” explains Drew, a lecturer at Geisel. “I thought, ‘This is something that I can do right now, even under these circumstances.’”

When Drew contacted Chris Healey, administrator for the group, and suggested that with her background in epidemiology and public health she could focus on the COVID-19 related posts, he agreed, and was pleased to have her on board to help monitor posts and ensure that members adhere to group guidelines.

Formed in 2007, the Upper Valley Facebook Group has nearly 16,000 members and like many social media platforms has experienced increased activity in recent months. While these sites provide the opportunity for people to feel more connected with one another, they can also be the source of misinformation and confusion.

“People are understandably anxious right now about the pandemic and about the way their lives are changing, in what is an unprecedented time for all of us,” says Drew. “They’re also spending a lot of time on social media, and for some it’s the only place where they’re getting information about the virus.

So, it’s important to make sure that the information there is as accurate as possible.”

To this end, Drew helped establish some community standards around health-related communications in the group. “Most importantly, we’re asking our group members to use sources if they’re going to post health information on the website. This gives people a chance to decide whether the information is credible. People are, for the most part, doing that now.”

And, as always, to be kind and respectful of one another, especially during these stressful times. “There are a few snarky or inappropriate posts that we have to take care of, but overall it’s a very positive community and people appreciate having access to good information,” she says.

While Drew says she has a new-found appreciation for the role that volunteer moderators play on social media sites like Facebook, she’s glad to be contributing. “It’s just me figuring out one of my little niche roles that I can play to try to be helpful to my community,” she says. “But everybody has a role to play in public health, big or small. And I don’t think there’s too small a thing right now.”