Covid-19 dominates all of my social media feeds at the moment which is not surprising considering most of us have never faced something like this before. It seems so surreal that in 2020 a virus can bring what we know as normal life to a halt – worldwide. It is scary that this virus is not only infecting millions of people all over the world but killing thousands of them and there is no cure for it yet. The numbers of those infected or dying is growing by the minute. However for me the rise of racism, xenophobia, selfishness and pride in the past weeks is worse than the rapid increase of Covid-19 cases worldwide.
In the darkness and gloom that is spreading with news about hamster shopping and empty supermarket shelves; insensitive Corona parties and people not keeping social distance; the looming fear of a deadly virus that strikes with a speed that cannot be controlled; the spread of racism and hatred against Asians because of hate speech
like the use of the word “Chinese virus” instead of Coronavirus or Covid19….even in this darkness, there are some rays of hope and light. I truly believe that in these times of despair and horror, we all need to do what we can to spread light, love and hope.
So before you share yet another joke about the scarcity of toilet paper (or how precious and costly it is) ask yourself if you would find it funny if you did not have more than enough stocked up yourself? Would you find it funny if your frail elderly father/mother/relative/friend walked every day from one supermarket to another in the search for some because he/she did not stock up like you did and is now on his/her last roll? My seamstress told me about her 85 year old father who was doing that for days on a row and did not get a single roll.
Or think about the people who cannot be there when the supermarket opens early in the morning and the shelves are stocked up because they are working at that time. They are faced with these empty shelves again when they rush to the supermarkets either in their lunch breaks or after work and they don’t know what they are going to do when their last roll is used up. Would you be adding light and joy to their lives by sharing this joke?Or is this a joke that would be enjoyed only by those who have more than enough of
toilet paper to last for quite some time?
Another post that I have seen shared very often on social media is a picture/cartoon with the title “After Coronavirus” and shows very pregnant women. There are different versions to this “joke” and I struggle to understand that grownup human beings think this is funny; something to be shared, snickered and guffawed at. Do they not see it as something that reflects on their own maturity (or lack thereof) and that this is a sexist joke?
The other day I read a thought provoking post on a friend’s timeline. It was about how jokes about weight gain are fat phobic. As someone who struggled with negative body image for way more than half my life (and I still have relapses!), I know that the thought of not being able to make the right food choices due to access or shortage issues, or not being able to go to the gym can be very challenging for many. As this dear friend wrote in her post- don’t make Covid-19 jokes about body size, not even about yours. And while you’re at it, don’t make joke about body size at all! Don’t give people well meant advice about how to exercise at home (if they are not asking for your advice)-that is often concern trolling.
Domestic violence does not only affect women, it affects children too. For many children being in school is an escape from abusive homes. With schools and playgrounds shut down, many of these children will be imprisoned within the walls of their homes and at the mercy of their abusers.
I have heard so many parents talking negatively about having their children at home for weeks on end, some even saying that they will be mental wrecks because of it, whining about how difficult their children are….all this often in the presence of their children. Are they not aware of the emotional hurt and damage it causes to a child when they hear that being with them all day is a burden for their parents?
There is nothing wrong with being proud of the positive ways in which one’s country, company, family, organisation or profession is dealing with this crisis. But there is something wrong about comparative posts i.e. I have seen many posts praising a country for having very few Covid19 cases in comparison to other countries. Why do we have to compare ourselves with others and take pride in being better than someone else? Looking at these posts made me wonder about the value of human life. Every life lost to this virus is valuable and there is sadness, despair and heartbreak over each life. Statistics are important but if we use them to show that we are “better” than someone else or to look down on someone else, then we are insecure, racist and/or proud. The fact that statistics are not always correct, that there are countries which have a very low number of detected cases because people are not testing themselves is the topic for another post.
This is a challenging time for all of us. We all need to find our way to deal with our fears, insecurities and worries. But let us be careful that we don’t do more damage to an already hurting world. Let us think twice before we share jokes; share prayers or bible verses which when spoken or declared aloud every day are the ONLY way to protect us and our families from Covid-19; share news about cures or medicines that prevent the virus but don’t verify if these reports are true; share stories, pictures or videos supposedly from countries that have been hit badly by the virus without confirming the source of them; share fake news that only adds to the panic and despair.
Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger and other social media channels are powerful communication tools in these days of self-isolation, social distancing, lockdowns and working from home. May we use our voices to speak for those who cannot; for those who are weak, sick, hurt, in despair, depressed, lonely or even dying. May we use social media wisely and may our posts speak of compassion, love, kindness and encouragement.