A survey of 850 people from Kosovo's seven main regions was undertaken for this study, the findings of which show that information-seeking behaviour have altered recently and that disinformation may easily damages Kosovo society. This study also found that age is a factor that determines how the citizens of Kosovo are informed.

Being well-informed about important events that surround us

During COVID-19, people encountered several phenomena relating to information, including assessment of the validity and credibility of information. Information behavior is significant in times of crisis and is essential for formulating appropriate responses. As researcher T.D. Wilson wrote, information behavior is “the totality of human behavior concerning sources and channels of information, including both active and passive information-seeking, and information use”. When someone seeks information, they often do so in an attempt to grasp something more thoroughly. The spread of false information has irreversibly changed how people behave in regard to information, emphasizing the value of media literacy in society as a suitable strategy to combat the infodemic.

Information seeking-habits in times of health crisis

Studies on information seeking about matters of health have shown that in a social environment of involvement and support behavior undergoes change, altering how individuals search for and utilize information. If a problem with one's health arises, individuals are more interested in learning about it because they want to safeguard both their own well-being and that of others around them. Previous studies have shown how social media has had a positive effect by creating an environment in which people care for one another. A group of researchers at Nottingham Trent University, Gonzalez-Padilla, Tortolero-Blanco, and other scholars stressed the importance of reputable social media users. Some health professionals in Kosovo, such as Lul Raka and Valbon Krasniqi, who were both prominent in Kosovar society, have been very active on Facebook. At that time, the Institute of Public Health and the Ministry of Health swiftly converted their Facebook pages into primary sources to enable people to access information from these institutions. Thus, social media facilitated the dissemination of essential information, particularly at a time of uncertainty in which a profusion of false information was circulating.

How has COVID-19 changed information seeking-habits?

A study by professors of the University of Prishtina, Gëzim Qerimi and Dren Gërguri about the infodemic in Kosovo during COVID-19, published recently in the journal, “Media and Communication”, shows that COVID-19 had a great impact on people’s behavior when it comes to information. Online media is the second main source of Kosovo citizens and 66% of Kosovar adults say they receive news via different online media, while almost 40% of them use social media in their information-seeking behavior. The study found that in Kosovo, about 70% of the population indicated that they were concerned about the spread of the pandemic, while 65% of respondents were informed up to five times a day about COVID-19. The graph below shows the difference in information behavior before the outbreak of COVID-19 and during the first four months of the pandemic in Kosovo.

Before the pandemic, most people said they spent only an hour or less each day seeking information, but following the outbreak of COVID-19 there was a rise in the number of people who said they spent more time getting information. So, the percentage of those 5% who spent up to or more than 5 hours being informed during the day tripled, reaching 15%. This illustrates the rising need in Kosovo society for more information. It also confirms the increase in the exposure to all types of information, including a great deal of disinformation that circulated during this period. While this does not mean that people have been better informed, it does show how information-seeking habits have changed over a short period of time.

Television continues to be the primary information source in Kosovo (85%), followed by Internet media (66%). A study by the Reuters Institute concludes that online media has already “won the battle” with television to become the primary source of information in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Spain, Argentina, and South Korea. This is not the case in Kosovo, which along with Germany and Romania is one of the countries, where television continues to be a more important source of information than online media.

Age, an important factor of information behavior

The study found that age is a factor that determines how the citizens of Kosovo are informed. While older people prefer to obtain information on TV, this is not always the case among young people up to the age of 30, who during the quarantine period accessed their information more often from sources such as new media, online and social media rather than from the traditional media. This result is also due to the extension of television programs on social media, and television channels in Kosovo have constantly used Facebook to broadcast content on this social media. This content is not limited to news editions, but also includes debate and discussion programs and even government press conferences. This also coincides with the responses of those under the age of 30 who were surveyed and who trust TV more than the new media.

One may therefore conclude that despite spending more time on social media, those who consume more information are not always better informed. Due to the need for information on health or other resources such as education, the pandemic has led significant changes in how people obtain information online.

The study demonstrates how quickly habits of information-seeking have changed. Kosovo society has a high percentage of internet access (93%) and new media is main source of information for younger people (18-30 age group), which together created the conditions that have enabled the pandemic to more easily affect news-consumption as well as information seeking-habits.

💡 Interested in learning more about media consumption? If you want to become a more conscious information-seeking explorer, stay alert in the face of online disinformation and enroll in our free, self-paced course on Countering Disinformation today!

Background illustration: Photo by PaulShlykovfrom Adobe Stock license