Digital Media Literacy and Covid-19 Infodemic Among Indonesian Cancer Survivors


Social media as new media plays a significant role in changing society, including in seeking information. During this Pandemic period, various kinds of information related to Covid-19 were present in the community, including cancer survivors, a group susceptible to exposure to the covid virus 19. The flood of information (infodemic) that has occurred cannot be justified to harm the public. Until the sixth month of the Covid-19. Pandemic in Indonesia, the Ministry of Communication and Informatics noted 1,016 hoax issues related to Covid-19. Responding to this requires good digital media literacy skills, namely the ability to access, evaluate and critically analyze the information needed. This study aims to see how digital literacy skills among cancer survivors are related to the flood of Covid-19 information. Digital literacy skills are based on the European Commission's individual competence framework: personal competence and social competence. This study used a descriptive survey method and used descriptive statistical data analysis techniques. Data were obtained by distributing questionnaires to 96 cancer survivors. The results showed that cancer survivors' digital literacy skills were in the medium level, which means that most respondents had sufficient skills to access and operate digital media, analyzing and producing media content. It is hoped that with the continuous improvement of digital media literacy skills, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, the anxiety among cancer survivors can be reduced.

Keywords: Digital media literacy, infodemic, individual competence, covid-19


The massive development of communication technology, especially with the rise of the internet and social media, has provided many changes in various aspects of people's lives. Based on the analysis from the Indonesia Digital 2020 report presented by We Are Social, there was an increase of 17%, or the equivalent of 25 million internet users, compared to the previous year. In 2020, social media users in Indonesia had reached 160 million. The most used social media platform in Indonesia are Youtube (88%), Whatsapp (84%), Facebook (82%), and Instagram (79%) (We Are Social, 2020). 

Social media, which has become one of the manifestations of new media, allows the possibility of drastic change in human life, seeking and obtaining information. Seeking and getting information was no exception during the Covid-19 pandemic, which currently happened in the entire world; which once was an epidemic, has become a pandemic. Indonesia confirmed the first case of Covid-19 virus infection in March 2020, where the total confirmed case of Covid-19 from March 2020 to March 11, 2021, has reached 1.403.722 people (Flora, 2021). So that various preventive acts are needed to prevent and control the spread of the virus. One of the actions is to educate society by disseminating information via social media like Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Website, WhatsApp, and other social networking.

News related to the spread of the Covid-19 virus, government handling, Covid-19 vaccine, and so on; continues to flood the community, including among cancer survivors, through social media such as WhatsApp group, Instagram, Twitter, et cetera. Based on WHO statement, cancer survivors are one of the groups that have a high risk of contracting the Covid-19 virus besides people over 60 years of age, a person who have lung problems including asthma, a person who have heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, certain blood disorders, weakened immune system, and chronic kidney or liver disease (World Health Organization, 2020). So that valid information is needed related to various kinds of treatment and prevention of the Covid 19 virus for cancer survivors, who are the object of this research.

Currently, social media is becoming to be a quite effective platform or medium in disseminating various kinds of health information, especially regarding the Covid-19 virus. This is supported by research conducted by Xiaojing and Qinliang (2020), which states that social media is an effective medium and is very helpful in spreading pandemic news and knowledge of diseases caused by the Covid-19 virus. The media, in this case, is expected to provide real information, reduce public panic, and assist the government in spreading knowledge about the prevention of the Covid-19 virus. 

Indonesia, with a population of around 273 million; and 175.4 million of the total population is connected to the internet. On average, they spend their time using the internet as much as 7 hours 59 minutes per day (We Are Social, 2020). This makes communication of information via the internet and social media a crucial and important medium for the dissemination of information on the prevention of the Covid-19 virus.

The dissemination of information through the mass media also raises a negative side, which is the flood of information that cannot be justified (infodemic) so that it can have a detrimental impact on society. According to data from the Ministry of Communication and Informatics of the Republic of Indonesia, until the sixth month of the Covid-19 pandemic in Indonesia, there were 1,016 hoax issues related to Covid-19 spread across 1,912 digital platforms (Farisa, 2020). WHO states that a global epidemic of misinformation has spread massively through social media platforms (Zarocostas, 2020). So it can be said that right now, we are not only fighting the virus itself but also fighting the infodemic. Infodemic is an overabundance of information, some accurate and some not, that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it (Zarocostas, 2020).

With this context, media literacy skills are very needed to be able to search, find, and use information obtained from various sources and media. Based on European Commission, media literacy is the competence of accessing media, understanding and having a critical approach to various aspects of media content, and creating communication in various forms. Media literacy is related to various media such as television, film, radio, print media, the internet, and other digital communication technology (Martens, 2012).

The purpose of media literacy is to help a person protect himself from potential negative effects. With the assumption that media has a destructive nature, and in this case, humans need to develop themselves to overcome it (Potter, 2013). In this research context, cancer survivors must have good digital media literacy. In Indonesia, cancer is still the biggest health problem, with 400.000 new cases and 230.000 deaths based on Global Cancer Observatory data in 2020 (Globocan, 2020).

Individual competence is a person's ability in using and utilizing the media. The ability to use and utilizing media includes the ability to use, produce, analyze, and communicating message through media. Individual competence is divided into two variables which are 1) personal competence, a person's ability to actively use a computer and the internet (technical skills), and the ability to comprehend and analyze internet media content (critical understanding), and 2) social competence, a person's ability to communicating and building a social relation through internet media and to be able to produce and create content on internet media (communication abilities) (EAVI, 2009).

European Commission (EAVI, 2009) classifies a person's media literacy skills into three levels:

  • Basic Level, individuals have a set of abilities that allows basic media use but still have limitations in using internet media. The use of internet media is used for purposes without a clear direction, and the ability to analyze the information received is still limited. 
  • Medium Level, the ability of individuals through the media is still limited. The Individuals are fluent in the use of media and know the functions of internet media devices. Also, users can assess the information they need and use specific information retrieval strategies. 
  • Advanced Level, individuals at this Level are very active in using the media. Be aware and interested in the various regulations that affect its use. Users can analyze the information they get and create messages. In the social sphere, the user can activate group cooperation which allows for problem-solving.

Problem Statement

Covid-19 is creating a health crisis and creating an infodemic, with so much fake news spreading. Infodemic can also make someone make a wrong decision and over-paranoia, and not getting accurate health information. This supported by the research from Lepore et al. (2019) stated that someone who has low digital literation, not having a good computer skill and internet access, so they cannot acquire comprehensive information and analyze the accuracy of the information received. As also stated by Pan American Health Organization [PAHO] (2020) that infodemic can make someone difficult to decide due to a lack of finding reliable sources and guidance; that can create anxiety, depression, or unable to meet essential demands (PAHO, 2020). Infodemic can cause a worse Covid-19 pandemic.

In this case, media should play an essential role in reducing the number of hoax spreads. But it does not happen in reality. According to data from the Ministry of Communication and Informatics of the Republic of Indonesia, a year after the Covid-19 case was found in Indonesia, there were 1.402 hoax news or issues related to Covid-19. The flood of information that cannot be justified is, of course, also create an impact on cancer survivors who are one of the groups at high risk of being exposed to the Covid-19 virus. Cancer survivors need good knowledge about their disease and the impact it can have if they are exposed to the Covid-19 virus. With good knowledge, they can maintain and take the necessary preventive steps. Good knowledge can be formed when cancer survivors have accurate and reliable information. This is in line with research conducted by Giuliani et al. (2020), which states that patient education is a critical aspect of quality cancer care. Through obtaining accurate knowledge and information, it is hoped that it can reduce worries about unclear information on the treatment that must be done, how to prevent it, and efforts to improve the quality of their health. (Zarocostas, 2020).

So, an excellent digital media literacy is needed by cancer survivors. Digital literacy ability referred to in this case is the ability to access, evaluate, and critically analyze the information needed.

Research Questions

Seeing a large amount of information during the Covid-19 pandemic that can't be justified and can lead to wrong decision-making and affect the psychology of cancer survivors; so the formulation of the problem in this study is the extent to which digital literacy skills are based on the European Commission's individual competence framework, namely personal competence, and social competence and the level of media literacy for cancer survivors.

Purpose of the Study

This study aims to see the extent of digital literacy ability in cancer survivors relating to Covid-19 infodemic; based on the European Commission individual competence framework, which is personal competence and social competence. The level of media literacy of the respondents will be seen from three levels, whether they are at the basic, medium, or advanced level.

Research Methods

This research uses descriptive quantitative research methods and uses a questionnaire as the primary data collection technique. Quantitative methods can be interpreted as a research method based on the philosophy of positivism, used to examine specific populations or samples, data collection using research instruments, statistical data analysis to test predetermined hypotheses (Sugiyono, 2012).

This research uses the purposive sampling technique. Purposive sampling is the sampling technique, but all population members did not necessarily have the same opportunity to be selected as samples. Only those selected as samples were selected based on specific criteria made by the researcher (Kriyantono, 2006). The sample criteria in this study are cancer survivors in the Greater Jakarta area (Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Bekasi, Tangerang); have a smartphone with internet access and use social media such as Instagram, Whatsapp, Twitter, and others. The population size is based on unknown sample criteria, so the sample calculation in this study used the Cochran formula and obtained a sample of 96 cancer survivors. Using the Cochran formula, determining the sample size involves the characteristics contained in the population so that the minimum sample size will reflect the actual population conditions (Sarwono, 2011). The data obtained were analyzed using descriptive statistics.


Following are the results of research on the extent to which cancer survivors' digital literacy skills are related to Covid-19 information based on the European Commission's individual competence framework, namely personal competence, as seen from technical skills and critical understanding; and social competence, which is seen from the communication abilities aspect. It will also explain the results of the media literacy level of cancer survivors regarding Covid-19 information.

Characteristics of Respondents

Based on the questionnaire results regarding the respondents' characteristics, it can be identified based on gender, age, and level of education. Based on the data in Table 1, it is known that the age of most respondents is 46-55 years, which is 37.5%. This is per data submitted by the Perhimpunan Dokter Hematologi Onkologi Medik Ilmu Penyakit Dalam Indonesia (PERHOMPEDIN), which states that in Indonesia, the majority of cancer patients are dominated by productive age. The age range of people with cancer ranges from 45-50 years, inversely proportional to Caucasian countries; most cancer is found in the elderly (Rahadi, 2020). Characteristics of respondents based on gender, the majority of them are female, 89.6%. Meanwhile, from the education level, the most respondents were at the undergraduate program education level, which is 38.5%.

Table 1 - Characteristics of Respondents
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Descriptive Analysis – Digital Media Literacy

Based on European Commission (EAVI, 2009); personal competence is one of the factors to measure individual competencies on a person's digital media literacy ability, which in the context of this study are cancer survivors. Measurement of this personal competence is based on technical skills and critical understanding. Indicator from technical skills elements includes the ability to use the internet and access social media such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, Line, et cetera. In this case, the ability to access social media is in the activities of finding information activity on Covid-19 and the diversity of information about Covid-19 accessed through social media.

Based on the research results, it is known that all cancer survivors can use the internet and access social media. However, the social media platform that is accessed to search and gain information on Covid-19 are varied. On Table 2 can be seen that based on the variety of social media platforms accessed to explore and gain information on Covid-19, 44,8% of respondents use 4-6 different social media platforms, while 37,5% use 2-3 social media platforms.

Table 2 - Social Media Platforms
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The types of social media platforms used as sources of Covid-19 information include Instagram, Whatsapp, Facebook, Youtube, Line, Facebook Messager, Pinterest, Telegram, Twitter, and Tiktok. This is shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Types of Social Media Platforms Often Used as Sources of Covid-19 Information
Types of Social Media Platforms Often Used as Sources of Covid-19 Information
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Personal Competence, which is seen based on technical skills, is also seen from the activeness of respondents in using social media to find various kinds of information about Covid-19. The activeness of using social media is shown through the average hours per day of using social media for Covid-19 information. Based Table 3 data shows that respondents are pretty active in accessing social media to get information about Covid-19. The majority of respondents (40,63%) access social media for 4-5 hours per day, while 25% of respondents access social media more than 6 hours per day.

Table 3 - Duration of Accessing Social Media per day
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Various kinds of information related to Covid-19 are accessed through multiple social media platforms. Covid-19 includes information on symptoms, treatment, prevention, referral hospitals, information on the impact of the Covid-19 virus on cancer survivors, and the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak. However, in this case, the respondents are only limited as users in utilizing the media. Respondents have not been able to make products on the internet, social media, et cetera.

Based on the data above, it can be concluded that the technical skills of cancer survivors based on the literacy competency level are at the medium level. At this level, respondents are pretty active and fluent as social media users in finding various kinds of information about Covid-19.

Apart from being seen from technical skills, the measurement of personal competence is based on critical understanding. According to research conducted by the European Association for Viewers' Interests-EAVI (2009) for The European Commission, critical understanding is the ability to analyze and evaluate social media content comprehensively, knowledge of media regulation, and internet media usage behavior. Based on Table 4, the critical understanding ability of cancer survivors is at the medium level. At this level, cancer survivors can continue to access information according to basic needs and already know how to obtain and assess the data needed, especially regarding Covid-19 and its relation to the health of cancer survivors. Cancer survivors have been able to verify and compare the data obtained.

However, finding information through internet media, especially social media, and the understanding of media regulations are still minimal.

Based on research conducted by Lazonder et al. (2000), there are differences in information discovery behaviour via internet media between a person with exceptional skills in using search engines and a newbie.

This is distinguished by the experience a person has in using search engines, where experienced people tend to be more systematic and easier to do digital searches. Of course, the ability to search for information via the internet is very much needed by someone to easily and quickly find information.

Likewise, one's understanding of the regulations governing various policies for delivering information, especially information that cannot be justified.

Table 4 - Critical Understanding
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Another factor in measuring individual competencies on cancer survivors' digital media literacy skills is social competence. A person's social competencies are measured through communicative abilities which are the ability to develop social relationships through social media, the ability to participate in society through social media, and the ability to produce and create content.

Based on Table 5, respondents' abilities related to social relations skills and the ability to participate with the community through social media and producing content are at the medium level when referring to the European Commission's (2009) media literacy competency level. Based on the ability to make content or content creation, cancer survivors have created and uploaded reliable information about Covid-19; but low in convey correct information regarding Covid-19 on social media.

Table 5 - Communicative abilities
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Digital Media Literacy and Covid-19 Infodemic Among Indonesian Cancer Survivors

Digital media literacy and health literacy during the Covid-19 pandemic are inseparable things. Digital media literacy and health literacy among cancer survivors are becoming to be essential abilities. As one of the high-risk groups being exposed to the Covid-19 virus; Cancer survivors are expected to be able to sort out the various information they get properly so that they can avoid information that cannot be justified.

Good digital media literacy skills will also support cancer survivors to survive because they can seek and obtain various information that supports their health. Referring to research conducted by Lepore et al. (2019), which states that it will be easier for someone who can use computers and access the internet without difficulty to obtain various kinds of health information that can be justified for its accuracy, and this ability relates to the level of education of that person.

The study results indicate that the respondents' audience access to social media is currently very active. Various social media platforms are used to find information about Covid-19, such as Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Youtube, Line, Facebook, and others. However, most respondents (63,54%) prefer to use WhatsApp as a source of information. Of course, very active audience access to the media must be accompanied by the ability to understand the media. The power of mass media, especially social media, to disseminate various kinds of information can affect people's lives, especially cancer survivors. Cancer survivors who cannot sort and select news or information can easily get carried away by opinions, which can lead to making wrong decisions or experiencing excessive anxiety.

Based on the research results, digital media literacy among cancer survivors is quite good. When referring to the media literacy competency level of the EAVI (2009), it shows that the respondents who came from among cancer survivors were at the medium level. Where they have sufficient abilities in terms of technical skills, critical understanding, and communicative abilities, which is being able to access the internet and use various social media platforms to get information even though they are still only users. Also, respondents have learned how to assess the information needed and obtained and carry out evaluations, although it is not easy to search for information on various social media platforms to check the truth of the information obtained and do not fully understand digital media regulations. Respondents have also been able to create content and upload on social media even though their ability to be able to convey correct information regarding Covid-19 is not yet maximal.

So the competence of digital media literacy in the community, especially among cancer survivors during the Covid-19 pandemic, still needs to be improved. The community is flooded with various kinds of information that need to be appropriately checked. Referring to research conducted by Cifuentes (2020) that with the current health crisis, the circulation of fake news is growing rapidly, it requires a critical ability to be able to read and evaluate the truth of the news, as seen from the source, the logo of the organization that issued the information, whether there is a spelling mistake, the date of publication and a statement to disseminate the information. This is where good digital media literacy skills are very much needed.

Continuing to improve media literacy skills is not only an audience responsibility, but media companies and media workers are also required to have a social responsibility to produce balanced and accurate news. As we know that media is a double-edged knife that provides benefits and holds a detrimental threat during the Covid-19 pandemic for society, especially in this study, cancer survivors. During the Covid-19 pandemic, apart from challenges to cut the spread of the Covid-19 virus; Cancer survivors are also faced with infodemics or excessive information about Covid-19. Various information has sprung up on social media without justification. The media have a responsibility to educate the community and do not make it a tool to mislead the community. Having good media literacy skills and knowing how to do it will positively impact a person's life, especially cancer survivors.


Based on the research result, it can be concluded that the digital literacy skills of cancer survivors are in the medium category as seen from personal competencies, that is, technical skills and critical understanding as well as social competence, which is measured through communicative abilities. Digital media literacy skills at the medium level mean that most respondents have sufficient skills in terms of operating digital media and accessing the internet and social media. Besides that, they also have sufficient abilities to analyze and produce media content.

It is necessary to continue increasing the competence of digital media literacy, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, so that cancer survivors can reduce anxiety during this Covid-19 pandemic and make the right decisions regarding preventive measures, the effects it causes, and other information from a reliable source. Also, it is hoped that there will be considerable attention from the government and media literacy activists to increase the digital media literacy of the community, especially among cancer survivors, due to high access to social media. However, many still do not have sufficient knowledge and skills to become literate.


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31 January 2022

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Communication, Media, Disruptive Era, Digital Era, Media Technology 

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Stellarosa, Y., & Ikhsano, A. (2022). Digital Media Literacy and Covid-19 Infodemic Among Indonesian Cancer Survivors. In J. A. Wahab, H. Mustafa, & N. Ismail (Eds.), Rethinking Communication and Media Studies in the Disruptive Era, vol 123. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 136-146). European Publisher.