COVID-19: It’s time to be a shut-in

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Graphic illustration by Anwen Huang

While many have been focused on the reckless behavior of celebrities, those around us have also been engaging in similar activities.

Anwen Huang

Partying is an essential part of the influencer lifestyle. For some, a global pandemic is not a reason to stop. Celebrities like the Kardashians, D’Amelios, Bryce Hall and James Charles are just a few who have recently come under fire for continually attending lavish parties. With their blatant disregard for public health guidelines, it is unsurprising that they have been called out repeatedly by the public. However, it is not just the rich elite that have seemingly forgotten about the pandemic: many students have too. While it is important to call out celebrities, it is more important to call out those around us who flaunt public safety, for they impact the local community directly and are more likely to listen to their peers and change their behavior.  

On the contrary, many celebrities who continue to engage in reckless behavior simply don’t care. In mid-August, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made headlines when he disconnected utilities to the Sway House, a sprawling mansion in the Hollywood Hills owned by Tik-Tok stars, for repeatedly hosting massive parties in violation of health guidelines. But instead of changing their ways, the owners of the house made light of the situation, posting Tik Toks joking about losing water and power. Their dismissal of the severity of the situation sent out the message that they were above the system. But despite facing fiery backlash across all social media platforms, they and other influencers have continued to ignore and even mock public safety. 

On Halloween, Kendall Jenner threw a costume party with over 100 people. Followers of those in attendance noted Jaden Smith dressed as a COVID patient, his face covered by a fake oxygen mask. This disgusting mockery of COVID victims was clear evidence of the dismissal of the pandemic by these celebrities. Then on Thanksgiving, social media pages of the Kardashian family were flooded with scenes from an extravagant Thanksgiving dinner. On that same day, 11,454 people succumbed to COVID-19 around the world. Every laugh the Kardashians shared was a laugh that the loved ones of these 11,454 would never share again. By flaunting their excursions on social media, the Kardashians again served an example of the tone deaf attitudes many celebrities possess towards the public. 

Influencer parties disrespect the millions of people around the world who have been affected by COVID-19. As countless people around the world struggle to make ends meet, these celebrities have used their own prosperity to fulfill selfish desires that pamper only themselves. No one is asking them to fight on the frontlines or directly use their wealth to help, people simply want them to recognize the severity of the situation. But when people demand apologies, they receive either nothing or void promises that are quickly broken. These members of the elite have shown that they can’t care less about the wellbeing of the general population, and countless examples have made clear that efforts to hold them accountable prove to be a waste of time.  

Unfortunately, it’s no longer just celebrities that have disregarded the pandemic—many students in the local community have as well. Posts showing the maskless smiles of students huddled together frequent social media and perpetuate a dangerous idea: that it’s okay to disregard the safety of one’s community. 

“Social media is a big part of many people’s lives, especially high schoolers,” said Junior Rebecca Gao. “When people see posts of people not following the guidelines recommended by the state and our country, it’s enforcing the idea that what they’re doing is okay, especially when they start to see it more and more.”

 Ironically, some who post these pictures even fill their stories with messages calling for mask wearing. Actions like these are inconsiderate and hypocritical. But most importantly, they are extremely dangerous.

These small gatherings, although incomparable to the scale of celebrity parties, are just as hazardous in posing risks to the individuals involved and their community. With Santa Clara County entering a two month long stay-at-home order on Dec. 6, 2020, all indoor activities involving people of more than one household are no longer permitted. Even before this shift, when the county was closer to normalcy, gatherings were still strongly discouraged and required masks and social distancing for all parties in attendance. The blatant violation of these regulations by students who host get-togethers without proper health precautions puts everyone in their community at risk, as countless recent events have shown that any social interaction without proper precautions, no matter how small, can easily spread the virus. 

Attending a gathering can wait, but lives cannot. In one click, these students could have all given their friends a call, but instead chose to risk their own lives as well as the lives of those around them.

Unlike the celebrities of Hollywood, however, local students are more likely to listen to their community’s urging, especially if their friends and loved ones step up to discourage them. 

So rather than expending energy on trying to call out celebrities, more effort should be spent on addressing those within the community who engage in the same, hazardous behavior. Changing their actions benefits both them and their community, while changing the actions of celebrities is not just difficult, but also won’t create much of an immediate effect because of how far-removed celebrities are from the everyday person. 

However, calling out those within one’s own community is no easy task. Difficulty navigating between saying what needs to be said and preserving relationships is what deters many people from speaking out. But with an emphasis on caring for rather than shaming others, this action can be made to feel less malicious.

“Public shaming of a person’s behavior usually causes them to lash out,” said school psychologist Brittany Stevens. “Instead, using “I” statements, such as ‘I care about you and I’m worried about this’ or ‘I’m concerned about what negative consequences your post could have’ tends to be a better way to express a dissenting opinion.”

Even indirectly addressing rulebreakers can help create change. Some students have turned to social media as platforms to voice their opinions on why health guidelines are imperative and should be followed, hoping that those who see their posts will realize that what they’re doing is dangerous.  Another indirect way students can show disapproval is by not engaging with posts that exhibit risky behavior.

“Whether a behavior continues is directly related to if it’s reinforced or not,” Stevens said. “If a post gets very few likes, for example, it is interpreted as being not particularly good. One way students can contribute indirectly is by ignoring such posts, thereby not reinforcing the behavior in them and allowing them to fade away.”

Whether directly or indirectly, there are ways in which students can take action and speak out in front of their peers. In the end, these messages to those in their community will be far more impactful than messages sent to distant celebrities who have repeatedly shown flagrant disregard of health protocols even after coming under fire. It’s time to practice and endorse shutting in. And if someone shuns you for it, remember that being a shut-in right now may be the best way to keep others alive.