Fame-hungry Instagram influencers are using the coronavirus hashtag to gain traction on their most fashionable “thoughts and prayers” posts.
Chinese authorities confirmed Friday that the mysterious and deadly pathogen, which originated in Wuhan, has infected some 9,800 people and caused 213 deaths throughout 21 countries. The World Health Organization calls the outbreak “unprecedented” and declared a global public health emergency Thursday.
Still, ‘grammers gotta gram. And the public’s insatiable appetite for coronavirus coverage is inspiring Instagram users to exploit the increased attention by adding “#coronavirus” to their posts. While some of the nearly 200,000 posts with the hashtag attached are related to the deadly illness, a troubling number of others include scantily clad young men and women flaunting face masks, throwing up vulgar gestures or making-out on the picturesque beaches of Thailand, where the disease has infected 19 people so far.
“F**k the corona virus,” social media star Logan Paul said in a jubilant post to his 17.1 million followers on Instagram.
Videographer Steven Divish wrote “vibe check” in a post alongside a photo of him posing in an alley, closed off by chains, in Shenzhen, wearing a black face mask, red jacket and pink Nike fanny pack. He also added the hashtags for “maskon” and “wearthemask.” Good advice.
Divish isn’t the only disingenuous influencer posting under the guise of service by urging their followers to be vigilant.
“Say NO to #coronavirus wash your hands with soap & water x 20s,” wrote @din0chka on Instagram, and adding “avoid touching” your eyes, nose and mouth — using emojis in place of words. In the photo, she wore a black and pink face mask while crouching in front of a matching mural in Miami.
Thankfully there is some humanity left on Instagram. On Paul’s tone-deaf post on Wednesday, one comment read, “I don’t think this is so funny 😑, people are dying.”
“Man this isn’t funny at all. It’s spreading all over the world,” another criticized.
To Divish, someone scolded, “Trying to gain attention in this way is in very bad taste!”
Meanwhile, another perplexing sort of celebrity is establishing in China. On Thursday, the Global Times reported that a live stream of the construction of hospitals in Wuhan for coronavirus victims has garnered a fanbase of more than 40 million viewers. China Central Television (CCTV) audiences are live-commenting on the broadcast with “You are the heroes” and “Cheer up, Wuhan.”
Watchers on social media are also sharing fan art, and voting on cutesy nicknames for various pieces of construction equipment, such as a cement mixer called “The White Rollers,” a flat-bed truck named “Brother Red Bull,” and two diggers dubbed “Little Yellow” and “Little Blue.”
Cultural critic and teacher Shi Wenxue had a positive outlook on the phenomenon. She told The Global Times, “Joining in the construction process shows the people’s confidence in Chinese efficiency.”
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