If there’s one thing that people raised in the digital age can agree on, it’s that social media can bring out the best and worst in people. It’s easy to create a persona online and shape the way everyone perceives you, making it easy to become the hero in your posts.
On YouTube, there exists an overabundance of videos that feature people doing acts of service in front of a camera for their following, whether it’s in the form of giving money to a person experiencing homelessness or donating to a charity.
At a glance, these social media posts could seem harmless, but this culture of exploitation for clicks has a worrying undertone, especially when considering their intentions. The more adept at navigating social media one becomes, it’s easier to spot trends within posts or be able to mentally categorize what we see on our feed.
These posts are a performative version of altruism, one that completely destroys the true meaning of the word. They are made with the purpose of showing other people how magnanimous the creator can be. But because the nature of social media is to gain attention, a large following and (in some cases) money, the true humanitarian meaning is quickly washed away.
Chances are, if you’ve been on social media in the last few weeks you’ve probably seen a microcosm of this “altruism.” Now that many states have started rolling out COVID-19 vaccines to the public at a more rapid pace, it’s not uncommon to open any given social media app and see that someone you know has received the vaccine. It’s usually very straightforward: a selfie with their vaccination card or simply a picture of the card, showing written proof of vaccination.
These posts can function as social Band-Aids, and they seem to be attempts to absolve the social media user of any broken COVID-19 regulations, all while their feed is still saturated with pictures at restaurants, parties, in groups or traveling, all within the last year.
Of course, not everyone who posts their COVID-19 vaccine card is using it as a get-out-of-jail-free card, and many people who receive the vaccine have been following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines since day one. To be fair, posting a vaccine card is hardly as egregious as filming a person experiencing homelessness for ad revenue.
The true issue is when those who have been broadcasting their irresponsible behavior decide that their vaccination card absolves them from their actions, and thus use the card as a signal boost for their own facade of altruism.
In essence, we should evaluate why the good deeds we do require social media attention to validate us and why for some, getting our vaccine and keeping our vaccination card safe isn’t enough to satiate that need.
Hopefully most, if not all, 5C students will have access to and receive the vaccine within the next few months, whether from a vaccine distribution site at the Claremont Colleges or before the semester even begins. It’s likely that many will be eager to share this on social media, since we’ve been waiting for this vaccine for months.
The urge to document such a long-awaited moment is understandable, but we can acknowledge that it’s callous to show that one has received the vaccine — along with the attention that comes with getting the vaccine — and then return to irresponsible actions.
There are clear solutions to this problem. If you have the social media itch and want to post a picture of your vaccination card, instead take a selfie that features your badge of honor — your Band-Aid or an “I got vaccinated” sticker. Better yet, use your platform to post something that doesn’t put your vaccine at the center, instead highlighting some helpful links to vaccine resources near you, or a link for preregistration in your state.
In general, think about the message you’re sending before you post about a good deed you’ve done. While it’s possible it might help inspire someone who sees it to go out and help others, it could just as easily incentivize doing kind acts for a camera and an audience as opposed to doing them independently.
With the constant stream of marketable “good deeds” advertised, remember that your conscience exists outside of social media, and that helping somebody doesn’t require a digital recap or an audience.
London Lordos SC ’24 is from Arlington, Virginia, and wants everyone who can to get the vaccine and be responsible with their vaccine cards.