Teens take to social media to advocate for social distancing

By Ella Dame and Tyrah Jefferson

Scrolling, swiping and typing remain an integral part of many teenagers’ day to day lives, and as social tensions rise, many social media platforms have become vehicles for a large discussion of controversial topics. The past year has been full of controversial discussions regarding COVID-19 concerns, online school and the 2020 presidential election. As people have become physically distanced due to COVID-19, these discussions have been moved to Snapchat stories, Instagram posts and other social media outlets.

On Nov. 12, Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot moved Chicago back into having a stay-at-home advisory and has more recently moved the city into Tier Three restrictions. These restrictions urge citizens to stay inside as much as they can and only go out when it is essential to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

These restrictions, along with similar restrictions around the country, have not been met with much enthusiasm from some teenagers. During the pandemic, many young people have continued to hang out with each other as they normally would and continue to party. These actions are disregarding all precautions but aren’t uncommon. A large amount of young people who are ignoring the pandemic’s restrictions have an immortality complex, believing they cannot get sick or die, which often stems from seeing other young people posting on social media without repercussions, according to Parents.com.

Esme Huynh, Div. 162, has seen teenagers posting photos of large gatherings and parties on their social media recently. This posting problem is not only on a smaller scale but a much bigger one as well as celebrities and influencers have also been taking to social media to post about their large gatherings.

Many influencers with large social media followings have been posting themselves at big parties ignoring COVID-19 safety precautions since early this past summer, according to InsideHook. The impact these influencers have is extremely large with an average social media influencer having around 6-20 thousand followers, according to Petal.com

These social media stars’ disregard for coronavirus restrictions has garnered some frustration from their followers.

“There are many influencers who are going out as if life is back to normal. An influencer’s job is to have an online presence and they are their own spotlight,” Huynh said.  “Knowingly posting videos at a party for thousands to see lets the viewers believe that it’s OK to be going out if people their age aren’t being harmed by COVID-19 directly.”

While many people are using social media in controversial ways like posting pictures of themselves defying COVID-19 regulations, there has been an alternative side to this online discussion. Stephanie Huizar, Div. 183, has witnessed first hand people using social media to call these teens out.

“I’ve seen many people use their Snapchat stories to ask people to stay home as much as possible, avoid parties, wear masks, as well as posting statistics as to how bad it is getting in Illinois,” Huizar said.

While some have been posting simple screens with text illustrating their personal views on the subject and others have been reposting informational documents, Huyh said the consistent call for listening to regulations can seem far away or disconnected.

“For your own sanity and health, do go out. But, wear a mask, social distance, and keep your circle small,” Huynh urged (Photo courtesy of Esme Huynh)

“Human lives have seemed to fade to just numbers and we’ve become numb because we’re tired. Behind every person hit with COVID-19 and death, there’s a family that is suffering as well,” Huynh said. “Also not just that but, there are doctors and nurses that are overwhelmed and are having to choose between who’s life to save.”

Alexxandra Torres, Div. 261 has noticed many social media influencers have continued to host parties and large gatherings. Torres said that these influncers are sending the world message to their followers.

“I feel that the notion social media influencers don’t or often don’t adhere to safety measures not only presents the idea of social hierarchy but creates an environment where following safety protocols isn’t cool, which is dangerous for the general population,” Torres said.    

According to Torres, the poor example set by some influencers can undermine public trust in science. “Content definitely can change people’s opinions on the matter,” Torres said. “However, I feel that moving too far away from trustworthy news sites to opinion based research can counteract the truthful information that is being put out by credible physicians and scientists. Content most definitely has the ability to morph people’s views, the danger that comes is if the views that are being challenged and changed are scientifically correct.”