Why Are People Posting On Social Media Not Social Distancing? An Investigation

We’re more than two months into quarantine as we help flatten the curve to get back to life as we knew it, but I’ve been seeing some alarming stuff on my Instagram. Like many of us, I haven’t seen my friends since March since I’m practicing social distancing,  but as I’m sitting in my house, I tap through Instagram stories filled with rule breakers. I’m talking about influencers traveling across the country, people attending in-person baby showers, barbecues on the lake, and college parties. Honestly, like…what the f*ck? 

For me, this is personal. My sister, a NICU nurse, has self-isolated herself from her 11-year-old son since March because of this pandemic, but you’re going to go to a party because you don’t want coronavirus to ruin your social life? Ok.

NY Governor Cuomo recently said that the current rise of cases in New York City is not from essential medical staff and other workers, but rather, from people who are leaving their homes to shop, exercise, and socialize. Trust me, I don’t want to be self-quarantined any more than you do, but we have to do our part if we ever want to get the f*ck out of here. But what I don’t understand, though, is if these people are being selfish and not following social distancing rules, why would they then take a video of it and post it on their social media for everyone to see? I’d think that if you were doing something wrong, you would want to hide it, not flaunt it.

And this, my friends, is the beginning of our investigation: Why are people posting on social media and not social distancing? Many DMs later, I found some social distancing rule breakers and interviewed them, and also consulted a psychologist for her expert analysis. Let’s meet the culprits.

The Influencers

Since the start of the lockdowns, influencers have been in hot water over quarantine, putting out half-assed apologies on their IG stories (hi, Arielle Charnas), and that trend is not stopping. We’ve all seen the jokes about how quarantine is going to show us who’s really a natural blonde, but a number of influencers are taking that really seriously. Recently, Bachelor alums Amanda Stanton and Corinne Olympios broke quarantine to drive hundreds of miles to get their hair done, and they’re far from the only offenders. We came across one influencer, Serena Kerrigan, who posted an entire video explaining to her followers that she’s getting her roots done (still not an essential service in New York). She says “don’t come after me” at the end of this video, but people came nonetheless. 

Kerrigan chose to break social distancing rules because, as she explained via Instagram stories to her 56.4k followers, she “hates seeing her roots on camera.” Forget the pandemic, people dying, and families that can’t say goodbye to their loved ones, this girl’s roots are showing!

Dr. Purvi Parikh, allergist/immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network, warns that the problem with meeting up with others (whether it be for a roots touch-up or to have a picnic in the park), even when following social distancing guidelines, is that “you do not know where the person has been in the last two weeks, who they have interacted with.” And while you could take certain precautions, like, as Dr. Parikh explains, asking “if they or anyone they have been in contact with has traveled, had fever, tested positive for COVID-19, or had other symptoms like a cough in the last two weeks”, she ultimately concludes, “anytime you interact with anyone, it is a potential risk.” 

Kerrigan says in the video that she made sure the woman who came to do her hair had been isolating, and that they were going to wear gloves and masks and “take all the necessary precautions”.  Amanda Stanton and Corinne Olympios, however, did none of that, and photographed themselves at a salon with not a single mask or glove in sight.

While neither Olympios nor Stanton outright encouraged their followers to go on an interstate quest for highlights like they did, and Kerrigan ends her video saying, “I’m not saying that you guys should do this, I just am going to do it”, the reality is that influencers can make an impact, positive or negative, on their followers with every post. While they may think that they’re only putting themselves at risk by bending the rules, they may unknowingly be swaying their followers to break social distancing rules too. This is why we can’t have nice things.

The College Senior

I want to note that no one is winning in this pandemic. We’re all making the best of this awful situation. It really sucks for college seniors who are not able to experience their last semester together or walk at graduation—these are moments they’ll never get back. But as tough as it is, it’s not an exemption to break social distancing. 

Earlier this month, a group of more than 20 graduating seniors all traveled down to their college in South Carolina. Allie and her friends have been posting their last hurrah escapades, and I asked her why she was posting, knowing that the rest of the country is following quarantine guidelines and watching closely to call out those who aren’t. She tells me, “At first I didn’t post and I would get annoyed seeing my friends’ posts. I saw more and more posts of kids hanging and completely ignoring the rules. As the weeks went on, I started breaking the rules too because it made me so angry seeing everyone else having fun. We went down to school for the last two weeks because we didn’t want graduation to be taken away from us.” 

Among close friends, she felt peer pressure to resume the life she had. Allie says, “I wanted to maintain my social life as we all just wanted a sense of normalcy. I felt a strange pressure to show my followers that I was having fun with our happy hours despite being in quarantine. I wanted to keep up with the quantity of content that I was used to posting before the virus.” 

While Allie didn’t receive any backlash personally, she feared that people were talking behind her back. Hypocritically, she adds, “In my group chat with my close friends, we would discuss different people’s Instagram and Snapchat stories and bash them if they were not social distancing. We were definitely judging anyone who was not being ‘safe’ by our standards.”

The Twentysomething

Max’s Instagram stories consist of him and his friends playing soccer on a turf field, even after NJ parks have been shut down. He tells me that the police were called to the scene to ask them to leave on numerous occasions, but they kept returning. 

While he doesn’t feel pressured to post about his illicit games, this New Jersey native tells me, “Soccer for me is a way to decompress, long before quarantine happened. For my mental state I need my escape, and if people have a problem with that I honestly don’t really care.”

Dr. Parikh says, “Soccer and other sports where there can be physical contact are especially risky, as usually people are spreading the virus more when physically exerting themselves—breathing heavier, coughing or sneezing outdoors, and from physical contact with sweat, there is potential for viral spread.” She recommends wearing a face mask while playing sports, maintaining a 6-foot distance, and if you’re meeting friends in a park, “do not share blankets—everyone will likely need their own.” But above all, she says, “I would avoid sports with close physical contact.”

With an invincible mentality, Max has no intention to stop going to the field with his friends. “If I get it, I get it. If I die, I die,” he says. “I’m not blaming anyone else. We all know the risks and potential problems that arise. I’m so sick of everyone on Instagram acting like they’re suddenly a doctor now trying to tell me how to live my life.”

What The Psychologist Says

Dr. Joanna Petrides, a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, specializes in anxiety and human behavior. She acknowledges that everyone is trying to maintain a sense of normalcy right now, and says, “These three people highlight the desire to engage in activities which energize us, lift our spirits, give us a boost in self-confidence, and help us to find comfort and balance in our lives while publishing it on social media. Unfortunately, these same activities are also putting ourselves at risk and there is a really selfish undertone to the reasoning behind it. Many of the people breaking the restrictions have stated they accept the consequences of becoming ill and were willing to take that on.”

It’s fine, I guess, to not have any regard for your own life, but that mindset conveniently ignores the real reason we social distance: to protect others. “What we’re not hearing is the awareness that they could unknowingly spread this illness with tragic effect after indulging in a seemingly minor activity,” Dr. Petrides warns.

“If enough influencers start breaking the rules or enough people post about social gatherings on social media, then people are going to think, ‘If they’re doing it, why can’t I,’ which was exactly what Allie said was her influence,” she adds. “And when this level of groupthink is present, the desire to fit in with others we relate to can lead to additional problematic decisions and inadvertent consequences of spreading infection when it could have been prevented.”

So, given the potential for blowback, why go out of your way to expose yourself breaking the rules? Dr. Petrides weighs in: “As we saw in the example of the influencer, there’s a push to not let down followers and still try to stay relevant.” She also considers, “being controversial is one way we stay on followers’ radars.”

“Lastly, there’s also a desire for attention during an isolating period like what we are currently experiencing. One way to express, demonstrate, and minimize effects of loneliness and facilitate discussion is through posting on social media and spurring reactions in others. Even if it creates negative attention towards the person posting, it still satisfies our need for attention and provides a break in the loneliness felt.”

Am I the only one who feels like we’re all in one giant group project, where some people are doing all the work to flatten the curve while others just goof off? That, and the whole “do anything for attention, even if it’s negative attention,” feels very middle school. But even though some people care more about likes, replies, and keeping up with their social media presence than potentially getting COVID-19, and a pandemic with over 100,000 deaths and counting in the United States isn’t shaking them, I did find that a lot of people are with me, doing good and following the rules while helping others however they can. Hopefully, we will continue to course-correct the rule breakers to get back to the 2020 we originally anticipated.

Images: Drew Dau, Chichi Onyekanne, United Nations COVID-19 Response / Unsplash; feelinlikeclunt /  Twitter

The Worst Influencer Responses To Coronavirus

Chances are, you’ve been stuck at home for a few days now. You’ve probably had a couple nervous breakdowns, ordered some arts and crafts on Amazon, and eaten a lot of junk food. Same, same, and same. But while you’re busy not being busy at home, influencers are busy pumping out the bad takes on social media. It’s one thing for your aunt to post some questionable health information on Facebook, but these people with large platforms should really check themselves right now.

Whether they’re spreading misinformation or being downright ignorant about what’s going on, many social media influencers have made missteps in the past few days. We’re all adjusting to a new normal right now, but here are some of the most egregious examples of social media misuse.

On Monday, Australian IG model Karylle Banez posted a photo of herself out to dinner—the picture was a few days old, so hopefully now she’s practicing social distancing. The photo is standard influencer fare, but the caption is… insane. She said “If I had the corona virus I know exactly who I’d be sneezing 0n (@ the rude waitress here).” I’m sorry, WHAT? Like… WHAT?

First of all, if Karylle was paying attention to the news, she’d know that sneezing isn’t even one of the symptoms of COVID-19. She should really educate herself. But more importantly, posting something like this is so incredibly f*cked up, I can’t even wrap my mind around it. Maybe your waitress wasn’t happy to be stuck at work when there’s a literal pandemic? Or maybe Karylle isn’t the kindest customer, which, given this caption, wouldn’t be shocking.

Lucky for us, the owner of the restaurant clapped back, telling The Daily Mail Australia, “She came in wanting a glass of moscato, which we didn’t have. The waitress gave her four or five wine tastings, the girl did her photo shoot and then left.” Yeah, that sounds about right. Karylle has since deleted her post, because duh.

But while Karylle didn’t actually put anyone at risk (that we know of), that’s not the case for everyone. TikTok personality Ava Louise went viral yesterday for her “Coronavirus Challenge” video, in which she licks the seat of an airplane toilet. I don’t recommend watching this video (which has since been deleted) if you’re squeamish, because I can’t imagine anything more gross, coronavirus or not. Even if everyone in the world was healthy right now, what would possess someone to lick an airplane toilet? I’m worried about coronavirus, but I’m also concerned that there’s a pandemic of stupidity.

Y’all participating in the new Corona Challenge? This is on a plane btw… pic.twitter.com/w1XwVRZd87

— Cash ✌🏾HYPE (@CashNastyGaming) March 15, 2020

Thankfully, Ava got fully dragged on Twitter, so I don’t feel like I’m the only one going crazy over here. But, unsurprisingly, Ava’s not taking the backlash too seriously, responding in a YouTube video titled “Why I licked the toilet seat, now I’m running for president.” I couldn’t make it through the entire six minutes of the video, but she seems like a god damn nightmare.

But not every influencer is ignoring the pandemic. On the contrary, some have actually gone too far in the opposite direction, using their platforms to spread unqualified advice, and even shill their products. One such influencer is Krystal Nielson, who’s best known for her time in Bachelor Nation, but she’s also an online health and fitness coach. And what better opportunity than a global health crisis to cash in?!

Krystal posted a video the other day, saying that she heard on TV that the reason children are less susceptible to COVID-19 is because they have less inflammation in their bodies. According to Krystal, inflammation makes you way more likely to get infected—she’s basically saying that if you stop smoking, drinking, and eating too much sugar, you’ll be totally okay. And the best way to do this? Of course, join her 4-week challenge! Fun fact: the cheapest option for the challenge is around $100. Girl…

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#POV I was just watching the news and a doctor was talking about how INFLAMMATION is what is causing people to display symptoms of the coronavirus. Smoking, alcohol, and high-sugar diets can cause MAJOR INFLAMMATION and inhibit our bodies ability to fight off illness. It is more IMPORTANT THAN EVER to focus on HEALING ourselves from the inside out. And we can do it with NOURISHING foods and immune boosting supplements. 💖 I’m doing a 10 day detox starting Sunday as part of a 4 week challenge. If you’re interested in joining me check the link in my bio. 😘😘😘 #stayinformed #staypositive #selfcare #coronavirus

A post shared by Krystal Nielson (@coachkrystal_) on

If this sounds like a load of bullsh*t, that’s because it is. According to the CDC, there are no known treatments, cures, or medical preventions for COVID-19—not even Krystal’s miracle borderline-MLM program. That’s why the focus right now is so heavily on hand washing and staying inside, because that’s all we can really do right now. If you decide to quit smoking or drinking right now, great. But don’t think it’s going to automatically save you from coronavirus.

Look, I get it—things are super weird right now, and as someone who spends a lot of my life on social media, it’s tough to find the right balance between keeping things normal and taking things seriously. It’s natural that there’s a learning curve in a time like this, but people with thousands of followers should really be using common sense before they post, especially right now. And with that, I will return to making memes, because we all need something to laugh about right now.

Images: DFree / Shutterstock; karylle, coachkrystal_ / Instagram; cashnastygaming / Twitter

Coronavirus Thirst Traps Are The Worst Take Yet

I obviously don’t need to tell you that coronavirus is a big f*cking deal at this point. Flights are cheap AF, Coachella got postponed six months, and most of you are probably reading this from the comfort of your bed thanks to work from home policies being implemented. While you may or may not be stressing about how the disease could affect you personally, to quote Kourtney Kardashian, there’s people that are dying. But in any time of crisis, we can count on one group of people to be completely tactless: influencers! And of course, coronavirus is no exception.

Naturally, coronavirus has been a hot topic on social media, and the memes are fire. But influencers really just don’t want us to have nice things, so now we have to suffer through…  coronavirus-themed thirst traps. Lord Jesus, fix it.

For our first example, we have none other than classic problematic YouTuber Logan Paul. (Not the one who is/was married to Tana Mongeau—that’s Jake.) You might know Logan from the controversy surrounding the time he accidentally filmed a dead body in a Japanese forest. Fun times. Well, back in January, Logan posted a shirtless pic of him and some female friends wearing gas masks on a private jet, with the caption “f**k the corona virus.” Oh boy. At the time, the virus hadn’t spread nearly as much, but there were already thousands of confirmed cases, and over 200 deaths. This is pretty much what I expect from Logan Paul, but it’s not a great look.

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f**k the corona virus

A post shared by Logan Paul (@loganpaul) on

Around the same time, this German fitness influencer, Fitness Oskar, posted a picture that honestly makes me want to throw up in my mouth. Not because of the masks, which are just purely stupid, but his gigantic f*cking arm! Is this a Photoshop fail, or could this man smother me with his bicep in approximately 2.5 seconds? I hate to use this word in 2020, but I am shook. But also, the making out with the masks on is a big f*cking yikes. I just hate everything about this.

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CORONA-VIRUS | Wir beten, dass es endlich gestoppt wird 🙏 Dieses Bild hat sich tatsächlich mehrmals so abgespielt. Auf öffentlichen Plätzen küssen @healthy_mandy und ich uns nur mit Mundschutz. Wir haben keine Angst vor dem Virus, aber wir tragen dennoch, wie ca. 90% der Menschen hier in Thailand die Masken, um uns nicht anzustecken. Unseren Urlaub genießen wir trotzdem und hoffen, dass dieses Elend bald gestoppt wird! Wir bekommen täglich sehr viele Fragen zum Virus: „Kann man überhaupt noch nach Asien reisen?“ „Sollte ich meinen Urlaub absagen?“ „Haben die Menschen vor Ort Angst?“ „Wie wird hier mit der Katastrophe umgegangen?“ Diese Fragen, und viele mehr, haben wir nun in einem YouTubevideo beantwortet, welches ich euch in meiner Story verlinkt habe. Was denkt ihr über das Virus? Habt ihr Angst? Tragen die Menschen in eurer Stadt auch Mundschutz? Denkt ihr die Situation wird jetzt in den Griff bekommen oder wird sich das Virus weiter ausbreiten? Schreibt eure Meinung in die Kommentare, sie würde mich sehr interessieren. (P.S.: Kein Photoshop) #corona #coronavirus #virus #kiss #kuss #asien #asienurlsub #thailand #phuket #palmen #palmtree #beach #strand

A post shared by Youtube & Fitness (@fitnessoskar) on

In the caption, Oskar says that he and his fiancée only kiss in public when they’re wearing masks, and that they didn’t stop the masks from letting them enjoy their vacation in Thailand. Okay, so first of all I’m not sure I understand the purpose of the masks in the first place, but also like, you could just not kiss in public? This might be a shock to some people, but PDA isn’t a requirement for a happy relationship.

In the time since these posts, the coronavirus situation has gotten a lot more serious, so naturally you’d think influencers would now be using their platforms to spread vital information about how to stay safe. LMAO, if you actually would think that, you clearly don’t know influencers. Just a few days ago, life coach and “good vibes” influencer Barrett Pall posted a gym locker room selfie, urging his followers to go about their lives, and “avoid the panic, the trolls, and anyone who has continuously existed in fear and negativity.” Sounds good. I’ll tell that to all the old people who are scared to leave their houses right now! Pall ended his caption with #byefelicia, which sends a really strong message to coronavirus that it’s not welcome here. Good work, I think COVID-19 is really scared!

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I’m not letting the #coronavirus stop me from doing anything, and you shouldn’t let it either according to most cdc and expert reports. Continue to take standard and normal precautions: wash your hands, if you’re feeling unwell then stay home or go to the doctor, and be mindful when around people who are more susceptible. Avoid the panic, the trolls, and anyone who has continuously existed in fear and negativity. Some people just love to get worked up. #needleeffect #gay #byefelicia #swimmer

A post shared by LIFE COACH + WORLD TRAVEL (@barrettpall) on

Barrett Pall isn’t the only influencer to recently make light of the coronavirus pandemic. In recent weeks in Australia, there’s been a shortage of toilet paper as people have stocked up in case quarantines become necessary. Influencer Ali Baxter took it upon herself to use the shortage as an opportunity for a cute caption, and then plugged her discount code for an athleisure company. Love that business mentality.

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Just out here looking for some toilet paper🧻🧻….. Anyone else?😂seriously tho! 📸 @dayslikethesephoto Wearing @ryderwear NKD Collection- use ALI10 to save! . . . . . . . . . . #ryderwear #dayslikethese #teamryderwear #ryderwearwomen #ryderwearathlete #sydney #northernbeaches

A post shared by ALI BAXTER (@ali.baxter) on

It appears that many influencers are thinking about the potential shortage of toilet paper, but thankfully, they’re not letting it interrupt their thirst trap game. California-based influencer Troy Pes, who apparently isn’t familiar with the concept of shirts, put it perfectly when he said, “Take all the toilet paper and hand sanitizer that you want but not the selfie mirrors.” Wow, I know I’m inspired. In tough times like this, you have to stand up for something, and selfie mirrors are definitely a noble cause.

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Take all the toilet paper and hand sanitizer that you want but not the selfie mirrors

A post shared by Troy (@troypes) on

As the situation with coronavirus continues to develop, what will influencers around the world do? If we all end up trapped in our houses, they might be running low on inspirational shots of themselves at the beach, but at least they can take mirror selfies from the safety of their own homes. During these uncertain times, make sure you’re keeping the influencers in your thoughts and prayers, because it’s really tough to figure out how to position your thirsty content when there’s a global pandemic happening. Who said these people had no talent?

Images: fitnessoskar, loganpaul, barrettpall, ali.baxter, troypes / Instagram