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As the coronavirus spreads across the world, interest in the deadly disease is also spreading online. And with millions of eyes on any and all contagion-related content, online influencers are attempting to go viral.
Dubbed the “coronavirus Instagram influencers,” these users’ posts appear to carry the same characteristics as those from other quasi-famous online figures: high-quality photos, expensive clothes, and exotic locations.
Under the coronavirus hashtag, a wide-range of information can be found. As with other social media platforms, like TikTok, conspiracy theories and misinformation abound as well. But as concern escalates over the issue, influencers are now seemingly treating the surgical mask, long-popular in Asian countries, as more of a fashion accessory than a tool to stop airborne particulates.
Even as the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the issue a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” there’s no reason not to have your photographer capture the moment.
Some accounts merely captioned their photos with all the most popular hashtags related to the disease without providing any other commentary.
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Some opted to be more helpful by providing pertinent information alongside their pictures.
“The number of coronavirus victims is different everywhere, so trust only verified sources (the Ministry of Health and their official media resources + WHO), and not Instagram stories,” sonyabuchik said from Japan.
One Brazilian influencer in China expressed confidence that Beijing would do what was necessary to stop the disease’s spread.
“Yes the virus situation is worrying, but the Chinese government has done EVERYTHING it can,” evelynbmarques wrote.
While some users may have had the best intentions, using high-quality photos of themselves to capture the attention of their followers had many online seeing the posts as nothing more than an attempt to take advantage of the outbreak.
“I was on humanity’s side now I’m starting to lean towards virus’ side,” Twitter user @vigilant_cat wrote.
I was on humanity's side now I'm starting to lean towards virus' side— Vigilant (@vigilant_cat) January 30, 2020
we deserve extinction....— Caballero Hidalgo (@Cbllero_Hidalgo) January 30, 2020
In recent decades, the world never faced an epidemic like what's coming by the looks of it...this is ridiculous, however they will probably be getting a wake up call very soon.— Aidan Flynn (@irishspeculator) January 30, 2020
Others claim some of the influencers aren’t even wearing their masks properly, further adding to the belief that the posts were disingenuous.
Some of these masks don’t look properly fitted 😷 Also many of the disposable masks aren’t that useful for healthy persons avoiding droplets of pathogens! There are better methods— ASTRA KING ⁷ (@astraking_) January 30, 2020
Perhaps the biggest name to weigh in on the coronavirus, though, is the ever-controversial Logan Paul, who took it upon himself to post a shirtless photo alongside numerous women outfitted with gas masks.
Current coronavirus statistics indicate that at least 7,700 people have been infected while at least 170 people have died due to the outbreak. The outbreak is believed to have originated at a seafood and animal market in Wuhan, China.
In the likely event that the disease continues to spread, we can all rest assured that Instagram’s influencers will find new ways to insert themselves into the health crisis.
Mikael Thalen is a tech and security reporter based in Seattle, covering social media, data breaches, hackers, and more.