5 Socially Distanced Ways To Meet People

Quarantine has made it hard for us to meet new people. My single girlfriends all complain that they can’t date right now because it’s unsafe to hang out in person, and because everyone’s stuck at home, they can’t meet guys anywhere other than dating apps.

That isn’t necessarily true, though. If anything, quarantine is just forcing us to be creative with the ways we meet people and think outside the box. So let’s talk about places to meet people that aren’t dating apps or bars, that are still relatively safe as far as pandemic concerns go.

Nature Trails

 

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Tbh, kinda prefer 2020 // by @betches

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I’m lucky to live in such an outdoorsy city. Austin is full of awesome nature trails to get lost on, and on those nature trails are usually cute guys walking their dogs.

Trails have been my go-to for getting out of the house, getting my steps in, and meeting new people all in one. They’re great because you don’t feel claustrophobic; everyone can safely distance and still have space.

If you don’t have any trails nearby because you live in, say, Manhattan, then long walks can be just as effective. Just be sure to make that eye contact—extra crucial now that we can’t smile at anyone from across the street in our masks.

Dog Parks

Fun fact about me: I met the last two guys I dated at my apartment complex’s dog park. (Guess my dog is my best friend and my wingman.)

Okay, so it may be a little creepy to just show up at a dog park if you don’t have a dog (but also, it’s a pandemic, who cares?). If you do feel self-conscious, you can always accompany your friends that have dogs to the park. Dog people are incredibly social and friendly, it’s just a fact, and I’ve met best friends and romantic prospects alike through my dog.

Or… and hear me out… you could just get a dog! There’s no better time to adopt a dog than now, since we’re going to be home all the time anyway. Clear the shelters, quell your loneliness and up your chances of meeting a guy all in one by adopting. Just be sure to do your research on breeds beforehand, and bring a mask to the shelter.

Instagram

Who’s been slippin’ and slidin’ into your DMs? It’s time to pay attention to those sneaky little bastards. 

A few months ago, I started following a guy on Instagram who lives in my city and who is in a similar field of work. We had been commenting on and liking each other’s posts ever since. Just a few weeks back, he asked me if I wanted to hang out—to which I happily said yes. And it’s a good thing he did, because I was crushing on him. 

Who’s been persistently DMing you? If a guy’s been actively engaging with your content for a while and you’ve started to develop an unofficial rapport, that guy may be worth asking out. (Please note: I’m NOT talking about the creeper persistently in your message requests asking if you want a sugar daddy. Unless you’re into that.)

 

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i respect the hustle // @taylajacksonn

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We all have guys that DM us. And while you’re definitely not obligated to answer any of them, it might be worth noting who the cuties are. Yep, I’m giving you full permission to stalk their profiles…just don’t accidentally like any of their posts from 2011. 

Plus, meeting guys on Instagram can be less creepy than meeting a rando off of Tinder. If you get a DM from a follower, you most likely know them (or at least know you OF them). Plus, you already know what they look like, so your odds of getting Catfished are much lower.

Group Workout Classes

As a yoga teacher, I feel like I HAVE to talk about the power of group workout classes. Both for your health and wellness and all that, but also for your love life. Potentially.

While you shouldn’t go to a yoga class with the intention of meeting a romantic prospect (and go instead for the amazing post-workout endorphins), you can build an incredible community of people by continuously going to your favorite group workout classes. Plus, you’re more likely to meet a guy that prioritizes self-care at a class than off of an app, just like you.

So if you feel comfortable enough to sweat alongside others, start going back to group classes. And if you don’t feel comfortable going to the gym or studio just yet, look out for outdoor group workouts happening in your area. Just don’t forget to bring your mask and stay six feet apart from your fellow exercise peeps.

Waiting In Line For To-Go Food & Drink

 

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Based on my dating history, this couldn’t be more spot on // by @saralememe cohost of @natcpod

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A great place to meet people that you may not think of is waiting in line for your to-go order. In line, people tend to be on their phones. But think of it this way: How would you like to be approached out in the wild? Approaching someone in line can be intimidating, but someone’s got to make the first move. It’s 2020, and that person can be you.

A simple “I can’t wait for this food! Have you tried it before?” or “How’s your day going?” can go a long way—really, any commentary on the line, the restaurant, and/or your general surroundings will work. It doesn’t feel forced, and shows you’re still open to connecting with people during a time when connecting feels really hard.

If you don’t take a chance on someone who strikes your interest, you may be missing out on a great connection. Remember: You’ll always regret what you don’t do so much more than what you do.

Images: Jon Flobrant / Unsplash; uuppod, letmefinish / Instagram

How Are People Actually Dating During The Pandemic?

Over the past few months, the most consistent topic of conversation has been how we will adjust to the ~new normal~ that we’re living in thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Obviously, we’ve all had to make a lot of changes, but what does that actually mean? Coronavirus hasn’t gone anywhere, a lot of stuff is still closed, and pretty much nothing feels normal. That being said, I know I’m not the only one desperate to have a personal life again, and we’re all trying to figure out how to get back into the dating game while not risking our lives.

As we move through the phases of reopening, everyone is assessing how to move forward in dating and everything else. This spring, we conducted a survey with our dating app Ship about dating during the pandemic, and we uncovered some interesting trends. Some of these things seem like common sense, while others are more surprising, but hey, you never know what to expect in 2020.

Dating Apps Are More Popular Than Ever Before

Most of us haven’t been able to do much in-person dating in 2020, but with so much free time on our hands, dating apps have been lit. The majority of people who took Ship’s survey said they’ve used ~the apps~ more during quarantine, and messages on Ship doubled after shelter-in-place orders went into effect. 

We’ve all been busy building our virtual rosters, but what happens now? 62% of people said they plan to meet their quarantine matches IRL, and with all that time to build a virtual bond, I have a feeling we could be seeing a lot of new relationships between now and Labor Day. Everyone that missed the memo on a quarantine bae the first time around will be eager not to make the same mistake again.

 

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Download our dating app @getshipped. The devil works hard but your friends will work harder to find you a match.

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The Bar Is Higher

Now that we’re all being forced to pick and choose who we want to see, it makes sense that we’re getting more selective in our dating lives. Before, meeting someone for a drink was pretty low stakes, and going on first dates was an easy way to weed out who actually had potential. But now, 50% of people say they’ll be pickier than before about who they meet IRL, and 31% of people say their standards are higher in general. We may be desperate in quarantine, but I guess some of us aren’t that desperate.

F*ckboys Are Struggling

With casual hookups pretty much off the table for the near future, it’s easier than ever to tell who’s open to something more serious. In the past, f*ckboys could string you along with the idea that they might want a relationship, when they really just wanted someone to text late night. Survey respondents said this is one of the perks of virtual dating, because it “cancels out the people that just want something casual” and offers “an excuse not to have to meet up right away.”

 

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We all have that one friend, so tell them to download our dating app @getshipped and chill tf out.

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Video Dating Is The New Normal

And of course, as we navigate the ongoing pandemic, it’s still a great time to use virtual dating resources. Zoom happy hours are played out at this point, which is why we launched Ship Party—it’s like Houseparty, but for dating. A simple phone call, FaceTime, or virtual Ship date are also still great ways to determine if someone is actually worth meeting IRL. It might be a little awkward, but at least you won’t waste one of your precious social interactions. 54% of Ship users said they’ve gone on virtual dates, and if you want to spice up  your virtual date, check out these Zoom backgrounds we made for any occasion.

Safety First

I hope this goes without saying, but sadly, your dating life shouldn’t be going back to 100% normal just yet. With cases once again on the rise in most states, it’s important to follow social distancing guidelines if you’re meeting someone new, and don’t be afraid to ask them questions. If they’ve traveled recently, or have been in a high-risk situation, maybe keep things virtual for another week or two. Once you’ve been hanging out for a bit, then you can make an educated decision about hooking up. Don’t take your mask off around someone you don’t trust, no matter how tempting it is. First date kisses just aren’t going to be a thing for a minute.

Why I Cut Out Friends Who Don’t Take COVID Seriously

“I have some news,” my dad tells me on our morning call, “my mother died.” 

I immediately stop pouring my coffee and take him off speakerphone. 

“Wait, what?” 

My father goes on to tell me that she passed away earlier that morning in her London apartment and that he would send me the Zoom funeral information when he had it. I then ask my dad the question that I’m sure many of us have been asking a lot more these last few months, the question that can change a 10-minute chat into a 3-hour conversation, the most important question at this time: “Are you okay?” 

“Yeah,” he says, “I’m fine.” 

Back in November, my dad had to have his leg amputated. There are no words to describe the agonizing fear of waiting for the doctors to give you updates or trying to memorize every word and sound of your parent’s voice as they are being wheeled into surgery because, hey, it may be the last time you hear them say “I love you.” After three major operations, he has been recuperating and learning his new normal, including walking with a prosthetic. When COVID-19 hit the rehabilitation home where he is currently residing, they immediately followed protocol and shut down. I haven’t hugged my dad since my visit to the Bay Area over the holidays and now, when I visit from Los Angeles, I stand outside his window to see him. These last couple of visits, I’ve wondered, “when will I hug my dad again?” and when a parent loses a parent, it’s the harsh reminder that we don’t get to keep ours forever, either. 

This pandemic hasn’t gotten under control because many believe that doing things such as wearing a mask when around others, staying home, and practicing social distancing will lead to the virus controlling their freedom. Thanks to social media, I’ve learned that some of these people aren’t just people on the internet—some were part of my inner circle.

When a friend asked me what I was doing for the 4th of July, I told them there were many reasons why I didn’t feel like being patriotic, but more importantly, I want to see my loved ones without the fear of getting them sick. When I asked this friend what their plans were, they told me they were driving from our state, California, to another high-case state. After reassuring me that they weren’t one of those people who don’t believe in masks, they stated that they were skeptical about the vaccine based on their own knowledge and research of epidemiology. They then stated the infamous line, “We can’t live in fear forever.” For the record, this person is not a doctor. 

Now, I am all for questioning authority, but when things are uncertain and peoples’ lives are at risk, I am not one to put my opinion and assessment over facts and numbers. I did express to this friend that their decision saddened me, and although I do know they understood where I was coming from after almost losing a parent, I can’t be the only one whose friendships have changed or have ended during this unpredictable chapter. 

I compare the decisions we make during this time to drinking and driving. Sometimes people get away with it, so they don’t think anything of it. But not getting caught doesn’t make it right. Also, what happens when you hit another car and hurt someone, let alone kill them? What if your decision hurts or kills the passengers in your car? Then your judgment, your decision, has severely impacted someone else—how can someone be okay with this?   

I spent my July 4th by the pool alone, drinking piña coladas, FaceTiming friends and family, and of course, watching everyone’s Instagram stories. The IG stories I saw ranged from people secluded among small groups in other parts of the United States, to the politically slanted “If you don’t celebrate today, it defeats the purpose of this day” rants. I unfollowed and deleted and kept telling myself a quote a former colleague once told me: “Don’t you just love when the trash takes itself out?” 

It’s incredible how a pandemic that has asked us to simply wear a mask when around others and to stay home has revealed who people truly are. My grandmother hid from the Nazis during World War II in Holland when she was eight years old. Having a gas mask was a luxury—it meant you had a chance at survival. She didn’t have an iPhone to FaceTime her parents that she was separated from. I mean, hell, she didn’t even have food—she lived off tulip bulbs. But sure, tell me more about how wearing a mask is infringing upon your life.

I am by no means an angel. I’ve received a speeding ticket, sent 3am text messages that deserve to be a meme, and, not to sound like a 45-year-old divorcée, I can be fun. I don’t take myself seriously, I’m the friend who keeps Twister and mini-beer pong on hand “just in case” and has a small reputation of being a bit of a wild child. I have managed to safely hang out with a couple of friends outside at a distance, and I will be the first to acknowledge that minimal human interaction is vital to everyone’s mental health. However, when you don’t choose to care about others’ health, others’ lives and your behavior is delaying many of us from being able to simply hug our loved ones again, amongst the many other long term effects it could have on others, then yeah… 

You and I have nothing in common. 

Images: Ranta Images / Shutterstock.com

How To Run Safely Outside Without Being A Jerk About It

Apparently, I had no idea what being “stir-crazy” actually meant until we entered this indefinite solitary confinement they call quarantine. Even as a proud introvert, it feels like the universe is shoving all the plans I’ve ever canceled in my face and screaming, “IS THIS WHAT YOU WANTED?” This is absolutely not what any of us wanted—as any introvert will tell you, part of the thrill is canceling plans. With no plans to cancel, this endless abyss of plans that could have been (canceled) feels like a discount version of Groundhog Day. Not only are we mourning the closures of our favorite restaurants, stores, and bars, but many of the activities that kept us sane are no longer an option. One of the most difficult aspects of my quarantine has been the closure of my gym, and not only because of the sense of community it provided. Physical activity has been one of the only things I’ve found in over a decade of pretty severe anxiety that actually helped keep it in check. According to the CDC, reduced anxiety isn’t the only noticeable benefit of regular physical activity. Just 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week (that’s like 7 episodes of Schitt’s Creek which, realistically, you’ve done in one day) can improve both your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Regular exercise can also reduce your risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. So yeah, TL;DR, exercise is good for you and I’m sorry for all the times I pretended I had cramps to get out of gym in high school. 

During this time of incredible stress and uncertainty, the anxiety-reducing aspects of physical activity are more important than ever. Being trapped inside a small space with no end in sight is stressful, to say the least. Exercise is definitely helpful, and nothing makes me feel quite as calm as the aftermath of a heart-pounding sweat session. There are plenty of workouts that can be done from the comfort of your own home, but when running is your go-to, working out while quarantined can be a little more complicated (unless you have your own treadmill, you lucky b*tch).

At the beginning of quarantine I was running four miles a day ….. Now I’m proud because I did a single squat

— Donese (@donese22) July 9, 2020

It’s SO tempting—outside is literally right there. You can see it and hear it screaming at you to lace up and get out there. So what’s stopping you? If your neighborhood is anything like mine, you’ve seen countless people jog by, headphones in, totally oblivious to the fact that we’re in the middle of a freaking pandemic. If they can do it, why not the rest of us? Well, because we both know we’re smarter than that. Yes, it’s tempting to squeeze in a quick 3-miler and be back inside before the coronavirus even has a chance to notice we left our bubble. Unfortunately, this isn’t some high-risk game of tag and we really can’t afford to take any chances. Here’s the great news, though—experts say that it is fairly safe to run outside, as long as we take the proper precautions. Family Medicine Physician Doctor Mike Varshavski—or as he’s known on Instagram, Dr. Mike—tells Betches that running “is considered a low to moderate-low risk activity based on the new chart put out by the Texas Medical Association” and notes that “throughout this pandemic, almost all shelter at home orders have continued to allow and encourage solo exercise like hiking, walking, and running.”

So that’s the good news! And as long as you follow these pretty easy guidelines, you can rest easy knowing that you put your safety and the safety of others first.

1. Jog Alone Or In Small Groups, But Make Sure You Maintain A Safe Distance

I get it, running with your best friend or your running group like you’ve done for years is a blast. However, just because you have been extremely cautious about protecting yourself from the coronavirus doesn’t necessarily mean your running partners have done the same. Make sure whoever you’re running with is also taking the proper precautions, and continue to practice social distancing even when running outside.  Dr. Mike tells Betches, “any time you are exposing yourself to other individuals, it raises the risk of catching the virus,” reminding us, “those who look healthy can still be spreading COVID-19. If you have to go with a group (for safety reasons, perhaps), try and be with the smallest group possible.”

Brian Labus, Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada Las Vegas told Runners World, “If you deem running with a small group is something you’re comfortable with, you’ll want to ensure that these few people have been properly careful over the past few months, same as if you’re running with one other person. Additionally, your small group should run somewhere you know you won’t come in close contact with others.” 

Labus also emphasizes that if you live with someone in the at-risk age group (over 65) or someone who is immunocompromised, extra precautions are necessary, and running with a partner may not be the best idea. He explains, “There have been over 182,000 cases (as of June 10) and over 77,000 COVID-19 deaths (as of June 6) in those age 65 and over since February 1, according to provisional data from the CDC. It is safer to run solo until disease transmission is low in your community.”

2. Bring A Mask With You When You Run

It’s probably not necessary to wear a mask while you run outdoors (and realistically, it would be really tough to wear a mask during any exercise that leaves you gasping for air) as long as you maintain the proper distance between you and anyone you encounter outside. Indeed, Dr. Mike tells Betches that “a mask should not be worn while running as sweat will make the mask wet and create other problems.” He advises, “The best protection is to wear the mask until you’re ready to exercise, take it off, and stay at least six feet away from others as best as possible.”

 

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What do you think I have a compass

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That said, it’s probably not a bad idea to bring a mask with you when you run just in case. You may end up lost and needing to grab an Uber back, you could desperately need to run into Walgreens for a drink of water, or you might end up running into your ex and needing a disguise. Point is, there are a lot of reasons you may need a mask when leaving your house, so make sure you have one with you at all times. 

Donald Milton, a professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health explained to the New York Times, “Outdoors is relatively safe, and masks would only be important if you are exercising in crowded areas or indoors in space shared with other people.” According to Milton, as long as you’re keeping your distance, you should be pretty fine running outside with your mask at the ready in case of an emergency.

3. Scope Out Your Street During Different Times Throughout The Day, Or Find A Different Street Altogether

Please withhold all “duh”s, because from what I’ve seen firsthand it apparently needs to be said—the easiest way to keep your distance when running outside is to run in a less crowded area. Now, this doesn’t mean driving 38 miles to the middle of the forest to knock out your run. This honestly may be as simple as spending a few days looking out your window every hour or two to see how many people are out and about. Peak hours in your neighborhood may also vary between weekdays and weekends, so also take that into account when planning your run. Ideally, you want to find both a time when not too many people are out, and a place where you have plenty of “escape routes.” This means not running next to a busy street that you can’t cross if you see a group of people on the sidewalk. If you’re running on a forest path, it means being able to step way off to the side if someone else is approaching (and, see #2, don’t forget your mask in case this isn’t an option). 

Dr. Benjamin D. Levine, a professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas, explained to NPR the importance of keeping an even greater distance when exercising outside. He advises, “The greater volume and rate of breathing that occurs during exercise has the risk of spreading droplets farther. I think it’s reasonable based on the known changes in breathing during exercise.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve been out walking and out of absolutely nowhere, a jogger runs by me so close that I feel a small gust of potential plague-wind as they pass. This isn’t okay, guys. First and foremost, if we can’t be considerate to other people who have just as much of a right to use the sidewalk as we do, we shouldn’t be out running in the first place.

That said, if you’ve been keeping an eye on your street and it really doesn’t seem like there’s much of a break in the constant stream of people passing by, check out some other side streets nearby. Chances are, within a mile or so of where you live, there are some quieter residential streets that will be far less congested. 

4. Make Sure That It’s Actually Okay To Run Outside In Your Area

 

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now everyone else can hear me heavy breathing too? cool. credit/permission: @itslaurentbtw

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As we’ve discussed, it is more than tempting to grab your shoes and just GTFO. But even if you’ve thoroughly read through these important tips and feel confident in your ability to run outside safely, please hit pause for just a hot second. Because of the constantly evolving nature of how we’re handling this pandemic, running outside without a mask may not even be allowed in your area. Make sure you’re constantly checking mandates from your state health departments to ensure you’re adhering to your area’s current requirements. These mandates are changing fairly regularly in some areas, so it’s a good idea to check them daily before your planned run. Your state will most likely have a dedicated coronavirus page with all of the latest information, from things like the number of confirmed cases to reopening guidelines.

Dr. Mike emphasizes, “Know that there is no such thing as absolute safety when outdoors. The guidelines of wearing a mask, physical distancing, and washing hands will certainly reduce risk but not eliminate it. Know what is an acceptable risk for you.”

If you’re still hyped up to go for an outdoor run, more power to you. Just remember the four M’s, and you should be good to go. Maintain your distance, Mask (in your pocket/bra/around your neck/whatever), find tiMes of the day that are less crowded (ok that was a stretch, who cares), and Mandates (check your local mandates to see what rules are in place in your area). Happy running!

Images: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels; donese22 / Twitter; notskinnybutnotfat, dietstartstomorrow / Instagram

How Not To Be A D*ck When Coming Out Of Quarantine

After 95694845 days of quarantine (I lost count), our collective #QuarantineClub efforts have not been in vain. And now I’m actually seeing other humans IRL (yay!) out and about. We’re getting our lives back in this so-called “new normal” and cautiously doing all right in Phase 3 with non-essential businesses opening up. Parts of New York are allegedly even entering Phase 4, but that seems too good to be true.

The light at the end of the tunnel seems to be within our reach, but remember—it’s a marathon, not a sprint. All things considered, we can keep up our momentum so long as a few bad apples don’t f*ck over the entire cart. Unfortunately, parts of the U.S. are experiencing just that—sheer amounts of stupidity (i.e. COVID-19 parties… seriously, WTF Alabama??).

Extreme cases aside, I understand that at this point, you’re saying to yourself “omg, I’m so over COVID-19. O-VeR. IT.” And I get it. 2020 is canceled. The pandemic was not exactly what we wanted for summer. But think about how the frontline workers must feel? My close friend Mira MacLeod, a Registered Nurse who works in the COVID-19 ward of a major Toronto hospital (which was also the same converted facility used to treat the first SARS patients) said, “hell (lol) I’M OVeR IT. If anyone has COVID fatigue, it’s me, girl.” 

So for her sake and for every one of these caregiving heroes, when it comes to our collective health, reckless behavior is inexcusable. In fact, it’s NOT okay when you decide to be a d*ck by not wearing a mask in a shared public space and jeopardize the lives of others. Additionally, I honestly feel like the warm weather must be frying off some of the common sense in some people’s brains. I guess when you throw sunny skies and balmy weather into the mix, it’s like everyone suddenly forgot that there’s still a deadly pandemic in our presence which, may I remind you, still has the power to come back to bite us again (like it did to South Korea and their second wave) and force us back into our homes.

Do the people begging for stuff to reopen not realize that means having to wear a bra on a regular basis?

*shudders*

— The Salty Mamas (@saltymamas) May 17, 2020

In light of people filling up their social calendars once again and taking to the city streets, the Department of Health released some guidelines on how we can all be safe when gathering together and dining out. However, what these documents neglect to state or inform us about is how the heck these rules will be consistently enforced. Mayor Bill de Blasio is essentially telling us all of this is based on “trust” and calling people out when you see them breaking the rules. Basically like “if you see something, say something.” While that’s definitely one way of approaching it, despite reporting the situation, the damage will have already been done.

Dr. Sidney Chiu, an emergency doctor at North York General Hospital, reminds us that we must each do our part and continue to take initiatives in safeguarding our community. Furthermore, we made it this far in flattening the curve—let’s not f*ck it up folks! Here are useful guidelines to keep in mind:

When In Doubt, Wear A Mask

MacLeod says that if you want to be safe, you should wear a mask indoors—even if the business doesn’t state that it’s mandatory. “You should be wearing one in confined spaces like at the grocery store, on the transit system, or at a retail store—places where you’re touching a lot of things.” You should be wearing disposable rubber and/or plastic gloves for this as well (think clothing items, transit railing, etc).

Wear A Mask When Walking On The Sidewalk

MacLeod says her major pet peeve is when people don’t walk around each other on the sidewalk: “It irks me that some just don’t care and/or take liberties. They walk by you in close proximity, and this is particularly troublesome when there are small children nearby.” As a mom of two kids, this is especially triggering for her. So she advises that when you see someone approaching, go around them, if you can. Remember, social distancing means you should be six feet apart, which is further than you think.

There Is Still NO Vaccine

“Just based on how I’m seeing some people behave, I think many believe that the pandemic has mostly passed—and that’s certainly not the situation. The reality is that although we’ve passed the first wave, we are constantly at risk of new cases,” MacLeod says. She adds that precautionary measures should be as routine as checking for your wallet, phone and keys before leaving the house. “A mask, disposable gloves, hand sanitizer (making sure that it contains 60-95 percent alcohol), and disinfecting wipes should all be a part of your ‘toolkit,’” which means that these items should be considered part of your “new normal” for the foreseeable future. If you’re forgetful, a good strategy is to set up a daily pop-up alert on your phone to remind yourself of these essential items. Or consider keeping it all in a stylish bag near your door. 

No Hugging Or Shaking Hands

“This is tough, understandably, because we are by nature, social creatures,” explains Dr. Chiu.  He adds that “in lieu of physical touching, air hugs/air high fives, or toe tapping is better than exposing any part of your body to someone else. You just don’t want to run the risk.” As a friendly reminder, he says that COVID-19 is spread through droplets and/or physical contact. “Just think that when you’re embracing someone and that close face-to-face, any number of things could happen: coughing, sneezing—even talking and breathing could aid in transmission.” He adds that what could then theoretically occur is that even though it appears that “nothing happened” during the hug, since you effectively touched that person, you could then absentmindedly touch your mouth, nose and eyes, thereby spreading the virus.

Just Because They “Look Healthy” Doesn’t Mean They Are

“We always assume there are obvious visual cues to someone being ill. However this is certainly not the case when someone is asymptomatic and can transmit the virus to you,” says Dr. Chiu, who adds that these individuals may not even be aware they have COVID-19. “So for your sake, it’s better to err on the side of caution and to wear a mask whatever the social situation may be.” Another scary and not-so-fun fact from him: “the chance of a test detecting COVID-19 is very low if you are asymptomatic, and it is unlikely to be helpful in determining if you have COVID-19 if you have zero symptoms.”

Invest In Anti-Technology For Your Sunnies

Dr. Chiu says that “I’ve heard some people complain about their sun/glasses getting fogged up due to the mask wearing.” To remedy this, he says to do the following: “mold your mask to the bridge of your nose, tighten the mask, or simply invest in some anti-fog spray or wipes which will do the trick nicely (and you should be prepping all of this before you leave your home).” This is an overlooked issue but an important one, and he explains that “you want to minimize the amount of time touching your face. If your glasses are fogged/smudged, etc and you’re constantly readjusting them, you’re increasing your chances of exposure.”

Invest In An Automatic Soap Dispenser

When returning home, immediately wash your hands with hot soapy water before doing anything else (the CDC advises you do this within 20 seconds of entering your home.). To avoid contamination, MacLeod advises people to get one of those automated hand soap dispensers.” Additionally, she says that bar soaps are a big no-no because bacteria and germs CAN survive on them (ewwww).

And in terms of venturing out in the world à la Oh, The Places You’ll Go Post-Pandemic (!), here are a few tips and best practices to be mindful of in the following social scenarios:

Restaurants/Patios

If available to you, always opt to use the restaurant’s QR code, which allows you to see the menu on your smartphone rather than touching paper. An exception to this is if you have a visual impairment and require a hard copy.

Wearing a mask while dining in a patio/restaurant space isn’t required (cuz um, how else can you eat that food if your mouth is covered?!); however, you should absolutely wear one when walking to your table and using well-ventilated washroom facilities (which are 99% of the time located inside of a confined restaurant space). 

Another food-related issue is regarding pick-up and take-out: you just grab the order and go. Don’t linger and/or congregate on the sidewalks.

Hosting Gatherings/Cookouts

The CDC recommends that if you’re welcoming people into your home for, say, a BBQ cookout (specifically an outdoor space like the backyard) to consider keeping a guestbook of attendees for contact tracing needs. Disposable but recycle-friendly cutlery, plates, and cups should be used in lieu of the silverware you have at home.

Parks/Beaches/Outdoor Venues

Both Dr. Chiu and MacLeod say that if you can, visit these spaces on a weekday when it’s less crowded. “Because it’s an outdoor setting, it’s technically safer than, say, a shopping mall because these types of places are conducive to offering more room and fresh air.” For any communal seating (such as park benches and beach chairs), use hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes prior to use. 

Individual Appointments (Including, But Not Limited To, Dental And Medical Offices, Nail Salons, And Hair Salons)

Ensure that it’s not a walk-in situation, and whenever possible, book your appointment in advance. If you’re feeling uncertain, ask what sorts of protocols the business or service has implemented, such as adequate HEPA filters/ventilation, PPEs, and plexiglass barriers to minimize the risk of exposure. When you do arrive for your appointment, wait outside and arrange for the staff to text or give you a call when they’re ready for you. Lastly, if you know you have to fill out any documentation, bring your own pen—don’t use the communal ones supplied at the office/salon. 

Final Thoughts

With all the news and Karen-shaming, I’d like to think that the majority of us are better than that. However, we’re all human and can still be prone to slipping up once in a while. So I recommend screenshotting this handy color-coded infographic to act as your “pocket guide” if you are ever uncertain about venturing into a specific social situation. It’s nice that we can FINALLY see our loved ones IRL again, so let’s not take any of it for granted and remember to be considerate of each other by adhering to these practical and safe protocols.

Images: Gustavo Fring / Pexels; Giphy (2); Twitter / @saltymamas

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. 

no words pic.twitter.com/4bBRH7dgJF

— gays0n (@feelinlikeclunt) May 10, 2020

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

Amanda Stanton & Corinne Olympios Broke Quarantine For Haircuts

Guys, we’ve been quarantining/isolating/social distancing for a long time now. While we’ve all gotten into our WFH and self-care routines at this point, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. And especially as the weather gets nicer, it’s more and more tempting to test the waters of getting back to normal life. Of course, in some states, restrictions have already been lifted, and people are experiencing things like restaurants and hair salons again. Speaking of hair salons, today we’re talking about one salon in Arizona, and two women’s long journey to get a much-needed cut and color.

Those women are Corinne Olympios and Amanda Stanton of Bachelor fame, and yes, they really did break quarantine and drive to another state to get their hair done. I mean, I’m really not that surprised, but still, like, really? On Monday, they drove from Orange County to Gilbert, Arizona, to visit hairstylist Chrissy Rasmussen at the Habit Salon. That’s a distance of around 400 miles, and according to Google Maps, it’s at least a five hour drive. I’d love a haircut right now, but that’s some serious dedication.

Both Corinne and Amanda documented their hair-care journey on Instagram, and Amanda even shared that she brought one of her daughters along to get her hair done. In this photo that Corinne shared, there are three different women working on her hair (and at least two more in the background), and there’s not a mask in sight.

For reference, Arizona salons were allowed to reopen starting May 8th, with new protocols in place to combat the spread of COVID-19. According to the Governor’s guidelines, salons must “provide face coverings to employees and visitors,” and practice “physical distancing in waiting and service areas.” Who knows, maybe Chrissy provided masks, but they certainly weren’t being used. And that’s definitely some sketchy nonexistent physical distancing. Like, maybe given the circumstances, you could have one person do your hair at a time instead of three?

In a post that I think was supposed to be funny (?), Amanda showed off her fresh hair, saying that she “may have peed on the side of a dirt road because I’m scared to use public restrooms.” But don’t worry, it was worth it!! I guess I’m glad she didn’t use a public restroom, but if you’re that scared, maybe it’s a sign that you should rethink what you’re doing?

Unsurprisingly, not everyone was thrilled to see these posts, and Amanda attempted to address everyone’s concerns in an Instagram story that has way too much text, but I read it anyway. She starts by explaining that she’s been VERY diligent about staying home, and hasn’t even gone to the grocery store since March 14th. That’s great and all, but please, go get some groceries, that’s not the issue here.

Then, she gets into the most compelling part of her argument: the salon was safe because she knew everyone there! She assures us that “Not a single person in there was a stranger or even close.” Great, because we all know that you can’t possibly get coronavirus from someone you know. I’ll just invite all my close friends over and see what happens! We’ll be fine! Amanda says that they tested negative before leaving California, which is fine, but did everyone else in the salon get tested? And if they’re just hanging out at the salon like it’s NBD, how many other people are they coming into contact with? It’s one thing to make a questionable decision for yourself, but to explain it away with bullsh*t logic is infuriating.

Amanda then responds to people who “might think this is going to great lengths to get my hair done.” (Sidenote: she literally went to great lengths to get her hair done, but whatever.) She says she has nothing else to do, and she’s totally willing to isolate from her family for a couple weeks in order to get that fresh balayage. She also explains that she posted her trip because she doesn’t feel bad, and that overall, she feels “really good about doing my part during this pandemic.” Ok, whatever helps you sleep at night.

In the grand scheme of things, it seems like Amanda has taken the pandemic seriously overall, which is why it’s so confusing and frustrating for her to do this now. Even with the precautions that she says she took, it doesn’t seem worth the risk. And we all saw Corinne’s photo with no masks, which isn’t any better.

As frustrating as it is to put our lives on pause, we ALL want things that we can’t have right now. I’m about to spend my birthday weekend alone in my apartment, and you better believe that’s not what I had planned. But just because I’ve been good until now doesn’t mean I’m going to throw it all away for something I *want*. Not to get preachy, but there’s still a very real crisis happening, and we shouldn’t just get to pick and choose when we care about it. As unpleasant as they are, the restrictions and guidelines are meant to keep us safe, and they should be taken seriously—not treated as a challenge to drive to another state to get what you want.

This isn’t a competition to see who can quarantine the most responsibly, but for two women with a lot of privilege and followers, they should be mindful of the influence they have over their fans. For every person who rolled their eyes at Amanda Stanton’s explanation, there could be someone else who started Googling the nearest state with open salons. “She said she was safe, so it’ll be safe for me too!” But even if you take precautions or get tested, it’s just not smart right now. We’re all doing our part to make it out of this, and I promise your highlights can wait.

Images: Gary Gershoff / Getty Images; colympios, amanda_stantonn / Instagram

Is Quarantine Making People On Instagram Less Fake?

For the longest time, Instagram felt like a frenemy, one that I’d been personally burned by. The highs, lows, and unpredictable algorithm made it overall detrimental to my emotional and mental well-being, and it’s been one hell of a tumultuous ride. However, this self-quarantine period has given me ample time to reflect upon all of my relationships, and while for most people that means figuring out that their ex is, indeed toxic, for me, that includes the relationships I have with social media. Out of a pandemic (of all things) my relationship with the social media platform had a surprising and positive shift. And, *Carrie Bradshaw voice* I couldn’t help but wonder: Is quarantine making Instagram better? Am I just so bored that I’m falling back in with a toxic (digital) ex? Or is something more going on here? I spoke with a few users and creators to see if it’s just me who feels like the pandemic has made Instagram a better place.

Content Creator and Editor Olivia Balsinger has written for the likes of Forbes, the NY Post, and Business Insider, but admits, “I had a love/hate relationship with Instagram for the better part of my twenties because it was that constant dick-measuring contest we didn’t want to (but felt pressured to) participate in.”

Before quarantine, Instagram was all about being aspirational. Posting in exotic locations, wearing expensive clothing, and having just the right lighting—it exploits the psychology of self-worth, and can prey upon people who lack inward self-confidence (points at self). But now, because we can’t visit a locale more exotic than our yards, people are changing the game completely, and it’s resulted in a refreshing influx of “ugly” posts. Celebrities like Hailey Bieber, Jessica Alba, and Katy Perry are posting themselves in sweatpants, hair tied, chillin’ with no makeup on. It’s a distinct departure from the perfectly poised, Photoshopped pics we’re used to. All of this has made Instagram feel endearingly real. “Now even the coolest of IG superstars are quarantined, and suddenly the human playing field is that much more level, “ Balsinger says.

 

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#workfromhome #conferencecalls @honest using @honest_beauty face masks -Detox on T-zone and Prime+Perfect everywhere else 🧖🏽‍♀️👩🏽‍💻

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B.C. (Before Corona), Balsinger would feel a tinge of insecurity and mild envy at influencers who appeared to live lavish lifestyles (which I have also felt—who hasn’t?), but says these thoughts and feelings have since changed.“I’m opening my IG app inferior to MissTravelGirl sitting there in her hot little bikini in Bali anymore,” she admits. “Instead, actually feeling empathy for everyone—even celebrities—because we’re all fighting the same scary, god-awful disease.”

I’m in agreement. Even though celebrities might be quarantining in mansions versus tiny apartments, the playing field does have a semblance of balance, and more importantly, this “virtual environment” somehow feels more genuine and intimate. As someone who has been diagnosed with a litany of mental health issues (depression, borderline personality disorder, trauma, etc.), in pre-pandemic days, I was frequently pressured by industry peers to use my personal Instagram account to further my career as a journalist. As a result, my posts felt forced and fake. And even when I was working as a social media manager for various spirit brands, interacting with fans felt phony too, since there was obviously a motive behind my interactions.

Up until recently, professor and journalist Kiran Nazish shared my sentiments. As the Founding Director of the Coalition For Women in Journalism she remarks, “I was never a big fan of Instagram, and a terrible user as well, with no sense as to how to engage with the public on this platform.” But in the thick of an unprecedented pandemic, we’re somehow navigating pathways to salvation with the app. For me, in these last few weeks, it began with memes and therapy-related accounts I follow. As a means of seeking out humor and levity in dark times, I would screenshot my favorite posts and share them on my IG stories.

Although I still don’t feel comfortable posting on my feed regularly, posting on my stories has been cathartic. I wasn’t expecting any responses, and yet, I’ve been getting upwards of 30-40 DM responses (compared with the previous 0-10), reactions, and new followers, so it appears that this content is resonating with people. It’s also acted as a gateway to engage in further conversation with people around the world by asking how they’re doing in these unpredictable times, which ultimately reinforces the notion that we actually are all in this together.

Nazish also felt compelled to give IG another chance. She says, “since the pandemic and the lockdown, Instagram has become a forum where I have been following accounts both for work as well as health,” and says she also feels more of an openness on the platform that wasn’t there pre-pandemic. She’s seeing people share things like “feelings about a sunset, preparing your grandfather’s recipe, thinking of your childhood, or openly speaking of depression.” These moments are special, she says, because “they’re representative of who we are as people: flawed, moody, powerful, powerless, impactful, creative, and at times, just bored. I love it. It feels real.” As Balsigner observes, this pandemic has created a strange sense of unity amongst us all: “it’s a silver lining in what otherwise feels like a really weird/scary Stephen King novel we’re living in.”

JQ Louise, a travel and food influencer, has definitely had the pandemic affect her content, but she’s taken more of the #TBT approach to posting content. “My focus has shifted from sharing tips and tricks for travel to opening up about my daily life, and in particular, all the details from my destination wedding last year,” she says. Despite initial concerns that her followers would get tired of her bridal images, she prioritized her mental health: “I’ve always been a private person, and yet, having the time to review, revisit these happy moments, and then post about my nuptials is getting me through these difficult times.” Moreover, she feels that, at least for the time being, the IG atmosphere is a safe and kind enough space to share these personal details. “There is an overall tone of gratitude across the platform, because we are all dreaming of being able to do simple things like see our friends or go to a restaurant, which we took for granted before.”

 

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Looking for all those summer trips like…miss this view from the @hotelhasslerroma! #JQSaysIDrew . . Planning: @cristenandcoevents Photo & video: @movemountainsco Dress: @firasyousiforiginals Floral design: @noosheensfloraldesign Hair: @federico_salon Makeup: @haleymakeupartist . . . . . #weddingportrait #bride #newlyweds #bridestyle #weddingday #weddingflowersdecor #destinationbride #weddinginspiration #bridetobe #luxewedding #elegantwedding #luxurybride #thedailywedding #weddingdecor #voguewedding #sobridaltheory #theknot #weddingitaly #brides #dreamwedding #destinationweddingphotographer #destinationweddings #destinationweddingitaly #weddingdetails #luxurybrides #destinationweddinginitaly #weddingflowers #rome

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Her followers don’t seem to mind. “My followers are reaching out, saying that my posts are a fun escape, and enjoying the personal connection,” she says, adding, “I am loving it too.” Branching outside of her usual travel posts also opened up another avenue to connect with people: “couples who have had to postpone their wedding due to COVID-19 have reached out to ask me about planning/strategies for destination weddings,” she says. She’s been able to share and swap ideas and help couples focus on the positives and brainstorm ideas for their new dates.

Jamie Milne, a food influencer, also attests to authenticity as being a successful driver of metric performance. Since lockdown, she’s doubled her engagement levels, increased story impressions, and seen over 1,000+ saves/shares of her recipe content—even when boosting numbers was never her intention. She, too, adjusted her posts and tone in response to the pandemic. “My content has been more personal now—rather than solely focusing on food/recipes, I always make sure there’s a personal element in my captions,” she explains. The vulnerability goes both ways, as she’s also encouraged people to reach out to her via email and/or DM. “It was my way of telling them they’re not alone and I’m here for them if they need to talk.” She’s also using her platform to help businesses that are struggling.

 

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always thinking about where I’m going to go eat once businesses start to open up again! tag the first store / business / restaurant you’re going to visit – I’ll feature them in my stories! please remember and consider supporting local businesses at this time ❤️ xx

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With celebrities and influencers relinquishing the picture-perfect Instagram aesthetic, Nizah says, “Instagram has significantly changed from a noisy place to a go-to place where I seem to be learning new ways to communicate while we are all locked away from actually meeting people in person.” However, the cynic/realist in me worries that this is all just a fleeting moment waiting to pass, so I remain ever-so-slightly cautious. It can be too easy to be sucked into this digital vortex with no safe exit strategy. Dr. Yusra Ahmad, MD, FRCPC, a community and academic psychiatrist, says that while there’s no harm in being optimistic, it’s important to exercise mindful and healthy boundaries if you feel you’re too caught up in Instagram, or any social media app, or relying upon it for validation. If this is the case, she advises you “consider setting time limits, and use your phone to set up such gentle alert reminders.”

Louise also takes Instagram with a grain of salt: “never take any social media platform too seriously even during these crazy times,” she warns. “It is still just a highlight reel that someone has chosen to put out there. Watching people constantly work out or organize their perfect homes gives me stress too, and makes me ask, how can they be doing that right now and why aren’t I? But just remember that it’s not a competition, it’s really not.”

Ultimately, we’re all doing our best to cope, so if an app can spark a little more joy in your life, by all means, use it—but do so thoughtfully. And remind yourself that once this is all over, there’s a big beautiful world out there to be explored, and in it are amazing humans who are waiting for me and you to connect with IRL.

Images: Daria Nepriakhina / Unsplash; jessicaalba, jqlouise, everything_delish / Instagram