COVID-19 in South Carolina: Experiences Using Facebook as a Self-Organizing Tool for Grassroots Advocacy, Education, and Social Support
This retrospective case study describes our experiences, processes, and lessons learned using social media for pandemic response. Our team created and maintained a large Facebook group, and we used this platform to support grassroots advocacy, public health messaging, and health equity during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Carolina. The Facebook group was initially formed to urge local and state leaders to implement a stay-at-home order, but we recognized a continued need for our virtual space. Group leaders performed tasks including data tracking/reporting and content review/approval. Initial advocacy successes included the stay-at-home order, efforts to limit transmission, and social/mental health support. As the Delta variant emerged, we posted vaccine education and access information and supported school mitigation, including a successful litigation effort that led to a mask requirement on school buses. With the Omicron variant, our group’s focus shifted to educating about immune evasion, transmissibility, and individual protection. This included updates on mask use, antigen testing, vaccine boosters, treatment, data reports, and vaccines. Throughout the pandemic, we addressed health equity, especially for those identifying as disabled. We learned that virtual communities could support each other and improve public health, even when disinformation was present and elected officials emphasized politics over science.