Instagram Influencers Monetize Coronavirus

MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 30: Logan Paul looks on after his brother, Jake Paul, defeated AnEsonGib in a first round knockout during their fight at Meridian at Island Gardens on January 30, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Perhaps the least surprising news of 2020, social media stars are leveraging China’s coronavirus for relevancy.

“F**k the corona virus,” social media star and would-be boxer Logan Paul wrote to his 17 million fans, posing shirtless among four women with gas masks. Paul is most famous for trying to exploit suicide victims’ bodies for views on a trip to Japan, and has the notable accomplishment of being rejected by even the Flat Earth Society.

Other selfie-obsessed human billboards are simply tagging unrelated posts with “#coronavirus” in an attempt to insert their specific brand of narcissism into a public health crisis for runoff views. Paul and his ilk are facing half-hearted criticisms from their fans, but the strategy seems to have been largely effective.

Meanwhile, livestreaming the construction of China’s emergency coronavirus hospitals has drawn millions of fans, turning cement trucks into meme-able celebrities. People are naming and cheering the on-site vehicles, turning frantic efforts to contain the Wuhan epidemic into an online game.

Meanwhile, Delta and American Airlines have suspended all flights between China and the United States, Facebook is trying to tamp down a flood of coronavirus conspiracy theories, and people of Asian descent are facing the overt racism so easily cultivated in a climate of tension and fear.

Not to be deterred, ’grammers like Steven Divish are “vibe checking” fashionable mask ensembles, while others are showing their health-consciousness with hand washing tips to “say NO to #coronavirus.”

Still, perhaps a glimmer of hope remains. “I don’t think this is so funny, people are dying,” one commenter told Paul. Another reprimanded Divish with a massive understatement: “Trying to gain attention in this way is in very bad taste!”


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