An open letter to social influencers: You have a role to play in this.
Lately I’ve been having numerous thoughts around the COVID-19 outbreak and how this global pandemic is affecting people across the U.S. in particular. Many are blaming the media, many are downplaying the severity of the virus, and many are scared out of their minds as they bunker down in their homes dreading the unknown.
While I’ve been doing my best to practice social distancing with my family, I have made a few errands to pick up a new computer, grab some grocery essentials, and even squeeze in a final workout session at the gym. I spent a lot of time debating on whether or not I should do those things, but told myself I’d get it out of the way now before locking myself indoors for the foreseeable future.
I’ve realized just how important it is for us all to practice social distancing and isolate ourselves because although we may not be in a high risk population, we all carry the responsibility of keeping the immunocompromised and elderly populations safe. By staying home and away from large crowds, you are literally saving lives.
You’ve probably seen this chart several times already, but here it is again so you don’t forget the impacts:
“If the number of cases were to continue to double every three days, there would be about a hundred million cases in the United States by May.”
Recently, this time spent indoors has shamefully seen my time spent on social media increase. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all flooded with remarks and personal opinions about the COVID-19 outbreak. From tips and advice on how to protect ourselves to jokes and memes expressing sarcasm and insensitivity, the pandemic is currently everywhere we look.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen people mention that this is “all the media’s fault” and that “the media and the government are trying to control us.”
Yet, those same people who are rejecting the media and news anchors while they’re reporting scientific facts from medical professionals are tapping through Instagram stories and listening to nonsensical wellness tips from today’s top social influencers.
I even stumbled upon this Buzzfeed article about influencers sharing bad tips and information about COVID-19 and how their influence causes followers to internalize their advice and take it as gospel.
The more time I spent thinking about this, the angrier I became.
Why are we so quick to purchase an article of clothing or an expensive skincare treatment because we’ve “officially been influenced by @insertnamehere,” but when the World Health Organization tries to tell us what to do, we simply do not listen?
I’m not innocent in this game either. I’ve influenced and been influenced countless times on a digital platform. We all have a little bit of power. It’s high time we start recognizing the power of influence and how we can use it for good.
So, to the social influencers with tens and hundreds of thousands of followers and more: Please stop giving false advice, making light of this situation, and spotlighting your elegant lifestyle. When all of this is said and done, we can go back to doing what we did once before. This is serious, but it’s also temporary. And as long as we do things the right way, we’ll bounce back sooner rather than later.
As an influencer, you have a responsibility. Your voice and your influence DO matter, and it DOES make a difference. You have followers who will listen to you. It’s now more important than ever to refer people to scientific facts and advice around this pandemic instead of soliciting and offering false information.
To learn more about social distancing and the importance of staying away from large crowds, check out this Mayo Clinic article, this Washington Post article, stay vigilant, and stay informed.