How cancel culture is destroying society, one victim at a time

How cancel culture is destroying society, one victim at a time

 

OPINION

How cancel culture is destroying society, one victim at a time

jk Rowling accepting honorary degree
Elizabeth Quinn

25th March 2021

 

Although I doubt that the concept of cancel culture needs any formal introduction due to its prevalence in today’s society, it may be useful to define for those of us who try to distance ourselves from the more harmful aspects of social media. “Cancel culture” is the popular practice of blacklisting someone or something, usually as a result of their perceived objectionable behaviour. While holding people accountable for their actions is definitely commendable, cancel culture fails to achieve this, and is damaging society in more ways than one.

Accountability promotes a society in which those who are discriminatory, immoral, or corrupt are not tolerated. Recently, Winston Marshall, the Mumford and Sons banjoist, was cancelled after praising an anti-Antifa book. This has forced him to step away from the band, and apologise for his actions. In 2019, Liam Neeson’s film Cold Pursuit was cancelled after he made racist remarks, and he has since made an apology. These two examples serve to highlight the positive impact that holding people accountable can have on society. Combine the good-natured intention of holding people accountable with the global reach social media has, and you have the perfect recipe for fostering an environment in which progressive change is promoted by not tolerating morally disreputable behaviour.

However, cancel culture has taken the concept of holding people accountable for their actions too far. More often than not, “cancelling” someone is approached with a merciless attitude. It usually entails completely blacklisting someone, refusing to accept an apology or recognise any attempts at redemption. This ultimately has career-ending impacts. Essentially, this attitude achieves the exact opposite of what I have just praised above. Although cancel culture may condemn unscrupulous behaviour, it essentially inhibits personal growth and self-improvement.

 

“Combine the good-natured intention of holding people accountable with the global reach social media has, and you have the perfect recipe for fostering an environment in which progressive change is promoted by not tolerating morally disreputable behaviour.”

 

Recently, cancel culture has come under criticism for denying free speech, with people claiming it to be the “antithesis of liberalism” and the “enemy of democracy”. I do feel that this stance may be slightly hyperbolic, but not totally incorrect. Freedom of speech protects people from being legally prosecuted for their words; it does not, however, entitle people to say whatever they like without suffering backlash from those who disagree with what was said. It also does not guarantee people use of a social media platform to express their views – this is a privilege, not a right. That said, I do feel that cancel culture instils fear in people whose opinion differs from the majority, leaving them reluctant to share their views on a specific topic. “Cancelling” someone may not lead to legal prosecution, but it can certainly ruin a livelihood.

Following on from this, cancel culture is also negatively impacting the way in which we react to opinions that we do not like. It is true that in today’s culture, “cordial debate is decidedly not part of the algorithm.” Having friendly debates is how we learn from others. However, it is no longer considered acceptable to listen to someone with whom you disagree and discuss the different sides of an argument now, the reflex is to ostracise someone whose opinion differs from the majority. Having grown up in a society where “cancelling” was not the norm, I recognise that it is acceptable to debate the different sides to an argument, without necessarily agreeing with the other side. Unfortunately, today’s young adults growing up surrounded by cancel culture may believe that this is an acceptable response to opinions which differ from the status quo, and this is a serious cause for concern.

The final negative impact of cancel culture I will address is that it often ends up promoting the person it aimed to cancel. Recently, Dr Seuss Enterprises announced that six of the author’s books will no longer be published because of the “hurtful and wrong” ways characters of colour are portrayed. Despite this, Dr Suess’s books now occupy nine out of Amazon’s top ten books, and his books make up almost half of Amazon’s top fifty selling books. Similarly, Piers Morgan’s book, Wake Up: Why the World Has Gone Nuts, has jumped up to number one on Amazon’s bestseller list after he was “cancelled” for making controversial comments on Good Morning Britain. The phrase “there is no such thing as bad publicity” rings true when it comes to cancel culture.

It is irrefutable that cancel culture has gotten out of hand. Cancel culture promotes the ostracization of those with opinions that differ from the majority. On one hand, it can ruin careers without the need for any substantial evidence, and on the other, it can serve to publicise the accused, in turn increasing their notoriety. Neither the environment cancel culture promotes, nor the outcomes it achieves, are productive for society. It is imperative that we abandon this societal trend, and instead create a culture of holding people accountable for their actions while allowing them an environment in which they can grow and learn as a person.

 

 

 

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

 

COVID-19 and free speech

COVID-19 and free speech

 

OPINION

COVID-19 and free speech

woman studying
Elizabeth Quinn

23rd March 2021

 

In early 2020 the world was faced with a new challenge: the COVID-19 pandemic. Within weeks, the focus of every government was, in theory, to stop the spread of COVID-19, and a great deal of legislative effort undoubtedly contributed to this. However, while the world was distracted by the virus, and the very visible fight to control it, many countries passed legislation that encroached dramatically on the right to free speech. Human Rights Watch has reported that over 80 countries worldwide have used the justification of controlling the COVID-19 pandemic to infringe on the right to free speech and peaceful public assembly. Of those, only 44 that violated freedom of speech and assembly have declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19.

 

One of the ways governments have encroached on free speech since the pandemic is through repression of the media. Human Rights Watch reports that 51 countries have engaged in arbitrary arrests, detentions, and prosecutions. Governments used laws that pre-date the COVID-19 pandemic to persecute people for voicing opposition to both government responses to the pandemic, as well as other unrelated policies. In Egypt, between March and June 2020, nine medical staff were detained and charged for “spreading fake news” and “joining an unlawful organization”, for highlighting and speaking publicly about the lack of personal protective equipment for medical personnel.

 

Around 24 governments have introduced new laws since the start of the pandemic prohibiting journalists from disputing government positions and actions taken to counter COVID-19. This includes reporting on what is deemed to be information that causes panic or mistrust among other things due to COVID-19. In Hungary, the Penal Code was amended to include the prosecution of anyone deemed to be spreading “false information”, this allows for a prison’s sentences for up to 5 years. Meanwhile, in China, a reporter, Zhang Zhan, was jailed and subsequently sentenced to four years in prison for traveling to Wuhan to report on the pandemic. At least 33 countries’ officials have threatened journalists and lawyers for undermining and contradicting their responses to COVID-19. This included China and Egypt expelling foreign journalists. Nine governments have put barriers in place to limit access to public health information and are only allowing pro-government media organisations to cover the pandemic. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been accused of acting in a manner that puts all Brazilians in harm’s way by encouraging them not to comply with measures used to slow the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing.

 

Human Rights Watch also reported that in 18 countries, state representatives have physically assaulted journalists. In India, in March 2020, 10 journalists were beaten by police for attempting to report on a checkpoint that was set up to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the Andhra Pradesh State. The checkpoint had cut villagers off from their homes.

 

“Around 24 governments have introduced new laws since the start of the pandemic prohibiting
journalists from disputing government positions and actions taken to counter COVID-19.”

 

In addition to censoring and persecuting the media, states have used the pandemic as an excuse to impede people’s right to protest. Authorities in at least 10 countries have arbitrarily banned or broken up protests. These protests were often in response to the governments’ handling of COVID-19. Governments used regulations put in place for COVID-19 to end unrelated gatherings and protests by opposition groups. In Turkey, authorities used the pandemic to try and reduce the influence of the leading bar association, which often criticises the government’s human rights violations. In addition to this, in Istanbul, public gatherings were banned due to the pandemic, but only in two districts which both have Boğaziçi University campuses. In Greece, peaceful protesters affiliated with the Greek Communist Party, who were obeying social distancing guidelines and wearing masks, were forcibly dispersed and arrested in Athens under the pretext that they were violating COVID-19 regulations. Last February, just as COVID-19 was beginning, the Canadian government controversially introduced legislation that gives heavy fines and even jail time to people who disrupt energy infrastructure projects. An Alberta minister said it was a great time to build the Trans Mountain Pipeline, as protests of more than 15 people were illegal due to the pandemic. The Trans Mountain Pipeline project had been heavily protested in the past by First Nations groups and environmentalists as they argued that they had not been properly consulted and the approval process was flawed. While in Ukraine, 13 activists were charged for breaching COVID-19 regulation when they gathered to commemorate the killing of a human rights lawyer and a journalist in Moscow in 2009, in January 2021.

 

While there has been an increasing focus on the spread of disinformation or fake news in recent years, the actions of governments often go far beyond limiting disinformation. This, coupled with the fear of COVID-19, has led to governments around the world curtailing free speech and the right to protest, all in the name of public safety. This willingness to take advantage of a global health crisis to increase their control over their populations shows a worrying level of cynicism among those in power. It is important for individuals and organisations to continue publicising violations of free speech, lest these injustices become more common.

 

 

 

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

 

The imprisonment of Alexei Navalny

The imprisonment of Alexei Navalny

 

OPINION

The imprisonment of Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny
parisa

20th March 2021

 

Alexei Navalny. A lawyer, politician, leader, and most importantly – a human being. On 17 January 2021, the 44-year-old Russian was sentenced to three and a half years in prison due to violating his parole which occurred back in 2014. According to the Moscow Court, Navalny disobeyed his probation terms over the 2014 money-laundering case. Russian authorities were suspicious that money-laundering was taking place with Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. If anyone was found guilty of such a crime, they would be facing up to seven years in jail. This case along with several others were reviewed by the court, the result was Navalny’s jail sentence was shortened. The court included his time under house arrest and henceforth, Navalny will only be required to serve two years and eight months in jail instead of three and a half. Navalny has stated that his so-called violation parole is politically motivated, and he believes that Russia is doing this in order to make people afraid. According to Navalny himself “This is how it works- they imprison one man, as a means to intimidate millions of people.”

 

Back in August 2020, Navalny was nearly killed by an attempted poisoning was organised by the Federal Security Services. He was sent to Germany, where he was treated and recovered. Upon his return to Russia. This resulted in uproar amongst his supporters, with large protests taking place across Russia. The Russian authorities attempted to diffuse the situation and went as far as detaining more than 10,000 protestors. According to the Human Rights group OVD-Info, 5,021 people detained throughout the country on January 31, 2021. This included more than 1,600 in Moscow and 1,100 in St. Petersburg.

 

Various human right organisations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have provided any possible aid towards Alexei’s imprisonment. Amnesty International are one of many organisations fighting for his release. Amnesty’s Moscow Office Director, Natalya Zviagina, stated that “The politically motivated sentencing of Alexei Navalny shows the true face of the Russian authorities, who seem intent on locking up anyone who dares speak up against their abuses and repression of human rights.”

 

“This is how it works- they imprison one man, as a means to intimidate millions of people.”

 

In recent news, however, Amnesty have released that they have stripped Navalny of his title of “prisoner of conscience”. It has been claimed that Navalny advocated for violence and discrimination from a statement made in 2000 which was linked to hate speech and because of this, Amnesty are no longer providing him with the “prisoner of conscience” title. The comments that Navalny made during this time have not been entirely specified but according to sources, Navalny commented on anti-migration and apparently went to the extent of comparing immigrants to rotten teeth. This change for Navalny does not mean that Amnesty have stopped to fight for his release; it is simply the case that they will not be referring to him as a “prisoner of conscience” within their law and policy department.

 

When the European Court of Human Rights released a statement to Russia urging Navalny’s release, Russia refused, less than pleased that people in Europe are “meddling” with their affairs. Now would be the time to highlight that Russia simply ignores any ruling that is made outside of its state boundaries. This is due to a new constitutional amendment introduced in 2016, stating that the Russian authorities have the right to ignore international legal decisions that may disrupt their “power”. Dmitri Peskov, Putin’s spokesperson, has said that Navalny’s case is only to be dealt in Russia, and that Russia will not take any instruction from foreign governments.

 

The EU have responded by imposing sanctions on four Russian government officials due to Navalny’s imprisonment. The United States are also on board with the fight against Moscow, with the Biden administration imposing sanctions on seven senior Russian officials. President Biden himself made it clear the days of the US “rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions, interfering with our elections, cyber-attacks, poisoning citizens are over.”

 

As of now, Navalny is spending the first half of his jail sentence in Matrosskaya Tishina jail, which is located about 100 kilometres east of Moscow. This prison is notorious for its extremely harsh conditions. While former inmates have stated that Navalny may not be physically harmed due to his high profile, he will undergo psychological harm due to the extremely levels of discipline, and the minimal time allocated for any social interaction with other inmates.

 

Combining Navalny’s current situation with the numerous charges and trials held against him, it is easy to see that Russia goes to extreme lengths in order to silence any person who does not follow orders. With Russia having such a tight authoritarian regime, anyone who fights for basic human rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom to protest, seems to face a serious backlash. Russia will not stop, even if there are many organisations and bodies defending Navalny and fighting for his release. Russia will not stop even if their enemies continue to grow in numbers. However, what is most important is that Navalny does not entail to give up, the more Russia push, the more he along with others, will continue to fight back.

 

Featured Photo from Michal Siergiejevicz on Flickr

All American: Political violence is at home in the United States

All American: Political violence is at home in the United States

 

OPINION

All American: Political violence is at home in the United States

2020 storming of the US capitol
olivia moore

28th February 2021

 

As democracy in the United States has been pushed to breaking point, demonstrated by January’s insurrection at the Capitol and the ensuing attempted impeachment of Donald Trump, political pundits and journalists have taken to comparing the scenes in the Capitol to the “middle east” or naming specific locations such as Syria, Baghdad and Kabul. These comparisons again appeared in the media in light of the recent crisis in Texas, where scenes of people queuing for access to clean water were described as those akin to a “third-world country”.

 

Such a quote arose during the Capitol insurrection, when Senator Marco Rubio tweeted “this is 3rd world style anti-American anarchy”, while CNN’s Jake Tapper simply likened the scenes to Bogota. ABC anchor Martha Raddaz reported: “It is so horrible to know, we are in America where this is happening, on Capitol Hill. I’m not in Baghdad. I’m not in Kabul. I’m not in a dangerous situation overseas. We are in America.” Not only is terminology like “third world” generalised and outdated, these comparisons are also ahistorical and simply false. This rhetoric promotes the negative stereotype that countries outside the US, typically countries in Central or South America, the Middle East, or Africa, are being unfairly referenced as chaotic and war-ridden. Many expressed disgust when Donald Trump referenced “shithole countries” during his presidency; and yet the media and politicians are simply continuing this ignorant discourse in a more covert manner.

 

These comparisons also deflect attention away from the fact that this political violence is, in reality, distinctly American. Allowing this rhetoric to permeate cable news and political discourse contributes to an “othering” of political violence as “something that happens in those countries over there”, but not in the US. In fact, this kind of violence is intrinsically linked to American history. Historically, the United States is a settler colonial state, created by the displacement and death of Native Americans, and built on the back of slave labour. The white supremacist Charlottesville demonstration, recent Proud Boys rallies and the El Paso terror attack are just a handful of examples that reveal that this violence is still a feature of contemporary American society. It is unsurprising that the trajectory that began with the Trail of Tears and continued through Jim Crow and public lynchings has led the US to a place of white supremacist uprisings. The storming of the Capitol was a culmination of this history of political violence and the escalation that has occurred under the Trump administration. The inability of the media to recognise this leads to an inability to fully understand it.

 

“It is unsurprising that the trajectory that began with the Trail of Tears and continued through Jim Crow and public lynchings has led the US to a place of white supremacist uprisings.”

 

Political violence is also an important element of US foreign policy, most notably in the form of the “war on terror”. This policy has also been invoked through CIA backed coups. Between 1947 and 1989, the US attempted to overthrow governments of other countries a total of 72 times. Studies have shown that when a government is toppled it often leads to civil war and domestic instability. Political violence is homegrown in the US and exported to other countries in the name of “democracy”.

 

In the past few weeks, this rhetoric has again appeared in discussions surrounding the crisis in Texas. ABC anchor Erica Simon tweeted a video of people queuing to fill up buckets of clean water from a public spigot with the caption “This is not a third world country. This is Houston, Texas.” In this case, residents have been failed by deregulated privatised power grids that have not been weather proofed and a lack of government support and preparation. The Texas grid system is run by corporations and isolated from other states. This is distinctly American – both in its capitalist nature and its stubborn individualism. More generally, the catastrophic weather is almost inevitably a result of climate change; something many US politicians still deny as being a real threat to humanity.

 

It is curious that the media often reach for far away defective comparisons when presented with scenes of political violence, instead of referencing its long history in the US. The myth of American exceptionalism has deluded many into a sort of cognitive dissonance. These analogies are not just offensive; they are a betrayal of US history. In order for American to truly come to terms with its past and move toward a better future, it needs to forget the idea of exceptionalism and face reality.

 

 

Featured Photo by TheTapForwardAssist on Wikipedia Commons

 

COVID-19 Vaccines – What you need to know

COVID-19 Vaccines – What you need to know

 

OPINION

COVID-19 Vaccines – What you need to know

vaccination vile
olivia moore

27th February 2021

 

The past year has sparked doubt and uncertainty in all areas of our lives. While news of a vaccine has made us hopeful, it is understandable to be apprehensive about what this means. Since the outbreak, scientists have been working to find a vaccine which will help to prevent the spread of coronavirus. There are currently 64 vaccines in clinical development and another 174 in preclinical development. At present, there are three vaccines approved for the use in the EU: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca.

 

Pfizer/BioNtech

Pfizer and BioNTech created the breakthrough vaccine, which was granted approval by the EMA (European Medicines Agency) in December of 2020. Pfizer/BioNtech use mRNA technology in their vaccine by using the virus which causes COVID-19, SARS-Co-2. This has a unique physical structure that is used to prime an immune response. Although mRNA technology has been used in many different forms over the years, this is the first time it is being used for a vaccine.

 

The Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine is delivered in two doses within 21-28 days apart with 95% efficiency and until recently had to be kept below minus 60 degrees which made the roll out difficult. The recent development that this vaccine no longer requires extreme cold temperatures when storing means that it is now “even easier to transport and use”. Ireland expects to receive 5.4 million units of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine by the end of 2021. Side effects are said to be mild for this vaccine, comprising only pain and swelling at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle and joint pain, chills, and fever.

 

Moderna

Moderna’s vaccine to combat COVID-19 was approved by the EMA on January 6th and like the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine uses mRNA technology. It requires two doses 28 days apart – and the efficiency of this stands at 94.1%. Moderna’s vaccine also needs to keep at low temperatures. Side effects that have been reported from Moderna’s vaccine are pain and swelling at the injection site, tiredness, chills, fever, swollen or tender lymph nodes under the arm, headache, muscle and joint pain, nausea, and vomiting. Although these side effects were reported to be common, they were mostly mild to moderate. Ireland is expected to receive 870,000 doses by the end of 2021.

 

“At present, there are three vaccines approved for the use in the EU: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca.”

 

AstraZeneca

The most recent vaccine to be approved on the 29th of January by the EMA, which has begun to be distributed in Ireland, is AstraZeneca in collaboration with Oxford University. This vaccine is made up of another virus that has been modified to contain the gene for making a protein from SARS-Co-2. This technology has been used for many vaccines, including Zika and the flu. It also requires two doses 28 days apart. Side effects after this vaccine were reported to be similar as the others. The effectiveness of this vaccine according to AstraZeneca is around 76 to 82%, but the EMA has deemed it 60% effective because of results showing that 64 out of 5,200 who received it in the trail went on to develop symptomatic COVID 19 infections. This vaccine stands out among the others because it does not need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures, but can be transported and stored between 2 and 8 degrees for up to six months. The AstraZeneca vaccine is also considerably cheaper starting at $3 – $4 per shot unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech, the prices of which begin at $20 per shot. In AstraZeneca’s clinical trials, there was a lack of data from over-65s; as a result of this, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Poland, and Belgium have chosen not to approve it for their older population. Ireland has decided to use the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine for over-70s which has resulted in major reorganisation of the roll out. Ireland should have received 190,000 doses of AstraZeneca in February and another 95,000 in early March.

 

The EU has expressed their frustration with the UK-based vaccine: while they had been expecting to receive 80 million doses by the end of March, they will only receive 31 million despite having already paid hundreds of millions of euros ahead of their approval to speed up production. AstraZeneca could be in breach of their contract with the EU for failing to provide the vaccines. Now the EU have purchase agreements with Sanofi-GSK, Johnson & Johnson and CureVac for use once approval is given. The COVID 19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy is a provisional list of priority groups that will be receiving the vaccine first as part of the state response to the pandemic. At the moment residents of long-term care, healthcare workers and people 85 and over are receiving their vaccines. Although we are a long way from being back to normal, these vaccines are vital to getting there.

  • To see how many vaccines have been administrated in Ireland visit COVID-19 Tracker App
  • Keep up to date with the developments of the vaccines on The Irish Times Vaccine Tracker.

 

 

Featured photo by Hakan Nural on Unsplash

 

The role of influencers amid the COVID-19 lockdown

The role of influencers amid the COVID-19 lockdown

 

OPINION

The role of influencers amid the COVID-19 lockdown 

a selfie stick
Elizabeth Quinn

24th February 2021

 

There are many unknowns surrounding the extent of damage caused by COVID-19 lockdowns globally, such as the mortality rate or the lack of output and fall in economic growth. COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, severe effects on the physical health of its victims, but it can almost be guaranteed that the hardships – financially, physically, mentally – have hit everyone in all walks of life. National, and even global, solidarity is vital to the slowing down of the virus. People are limiting movements and working from home all for the sake of their loved ones. Our lifestyles have been totally flipped, as we now appreciate the little things that we take for granted in normal times.

 

Some people have, however, been using this time in lockdown for more selfish endeavours. Celebrities and influencers have been seen ignoring government guidelines and restrictions, and have taken advantage of the diligence and obedience of the masses in order to go to parties and jet-set across the world. Some influencers have been seen to use their position of influence to abuse lockdown rules and pursue their own self gain.

 

The level of unnecessary extravagance and general tone deafness amongst the influencer community reached new extremes during these last few months. The worst of these, in my opinion, would have to be Kim Kardashian-West. Kardashian-West posted a series of tweets in late October 2020, exhibiting her vast wealth and total disregard for the rules by flying dozens of her friends and family to a private island to celebrate her 40th birthday party. Although ensuring that all the attendants quarantined and partook in numerous health screenings for the fortnight leading up to the trip, Kim quickly upset her audience in the latter half of her thread of tweets. Kim stated that her trip was a chance for her and her family to

“pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time.” 

This supposed normality includes dancing, swimming with whales, watching movies on the beach and kayaking. None of this is not an aspect of “normal” for the majority of people, and is almost an unattainable dream for the average person.

 

Many Youtube and TikTok influencers, who have a largely teenage and pre-teen following, have also come under fire in recent months for their attendance at various gatherings and their indifference towards social distancing. In late July, social media influencers flocked to the Hype House, a mansion in LA which is home to a number of TikTok stars. This event sparked a series of large gatherings in the Sway House – another TikToker house – and in Youtuber Jake Paul’s mansion, to name but a few.

 

Youtuber kodeerants pointed out the insincerity of their apologies – if these influencers even apologise for their actions –

“They apologize, not because they mean it, but only to get people to stop talking about them … If they truly were sorry they would stop going to social events and stay home like the rest of us.”

She also points out the bad example they are setting for their impressionable followers saying that

“These influencers are responsible for being role models for their audiences and all they are doing is showing them that you can do anything you want and you don’t have to care about other people.”

 

Other celebrities and influencers have been taking it a step further, and disregarding international travel guidelines by vacationing to all corners of the world. Reality TV stars, such as those on Love Island, have been criticised for travelling to Dubai since lockdowns began. Most recently, Amber Rose Gill, winner of the fifth season of Love Island, has been condemned for traveling to Dubai just days after more restrictions were put into place in the UK. She further fanned the flame by posting on her Instagram story, saying that she had no idea what Tier 4 meant:

 

 

Love Island star Laura Anderson was also highly criticised after travelling to Dubai. Anderson went to Instagram to address the backlash regarding her trip to Dubai, insisting that the trip was work-related only. She then explained that the work of an influencer is “hard”, and that it is not as appealing as it seems. Fans noticed that the sun-kissed glamour of her Instagram feed says otherwise, and Anderson quickly began to lose followers at an alarming rate. Other Love Island stars experienced similar losses in followings, including Anton Danyluk and Kaz Crossley. According to The Sun, the trio had lost a cumulative total of 33,000 followers, and that number continues to grow.

 

This loss of following was in part prompted by fellow Love Island star Olivia Atwood. Atwood was commended by her fans, and criticised fellow influencers travelling for work amid restrictions. Posting on her Instagram story, she insisted that she is working more than ever, now that she is working from home, and she encouraged her fans to hit them where it hurts, and unfollow these influencers. She said:

“The way to hurt people is silence because actually, when you are commenting on someone’s photo, even if it’s a bad negative comment, you’re still drumming up interaction on that post.”

She then went on to explain that by engaging with posts, although the comments may be negative, the influencer’s engagement remains high, and they will then continue to book high-paying jobs. Atwood also explained that the bad weather in Manchester, her home town, has made it very difficult for her to create content. Although influencers like Atwood should not be praised for doing the bare minimum by advocating for people to follow public health advice and government-imposed lockdowns, they are more deserving of a platform than some of their peers.

 

One ex-Love Island star that deserves huge commendations is Alex George, known as Dr Alex. Since the initial lockdown in March, George has been working on the front line in an A&E in London, and has recently began training to become a GP. As a social media influencer, he has seen first-hand the impact of the lockdown on mental health, especially in teenagers and young adults. The loss of his 19-year-old brother, Llŷr, to suicide in July, lit a fire inside of George, and inspired him to use his platform to advocate for the improvement of mental health services. Speaking on the death, George said:

“That was a real trigger that made me realise I wanted to push this and take it as far as I could.”

Following the loss, George spent the following number of months researching the extent of the issues faced by young people today, speaking to numerous experts, teachers, and students themselves. On January 1st of this year, George took to Twitter with an open letter to UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Due to his incredible advocacy for mental health, as well as his heroic work in the hospitals, George was recently appointed as the Youth Mental Health Ambassador.

 

Now, more than ever, influencers are hugely inspirational and aspirational to adolescents and young adults. As the spotlight shines so brightly on these social media influencers, we as followers are given the opportunity to see their true values, their respect for the rules, and the respect they have for the countless lives that have been lost since March. I hope that, as an online community, we begin to hold these influencers accountable for their action, and lessen their influence over us, especially in cases where they use their position of authority to their own advantage.

 

 

Featured photo by Steve Gale on Unsplash