Only a few months ago, the state government first imposed strict stay-at-home orders for every California resident, due to the spread of COVID-19, causing mass panic and forcing many people to stop working. However, the reality is that many teenagers, especially social media influencers, initially failed to take this pandemic seriously, even referring to it as a “Corona-cation.” After about a month, while many people were realizing how serious COVID-19 really was, Youtubers and TikTokers stopped talking about COVID-19 or being in quarantine and started going out, seeing their friends and, eventually, partying again. Content houses such as the Hype House and the Sway House, where TikTok celebrities live together, have proved to be contributing to COVID-19 cases, but many people continue to make excuses for their actions. However, the reality is that in order to maintain quarantine and ensure our youth socially distance, we must prioritize ensuring accountability from celebrities.
Several high publicity parties have sparked debate around this topic, including TikTok star Larray’s birthday party, as well as Sway House member Bryce Hall’s 21 birthday party. As a response to the latter event, the Los Angeles city mayor cut off the power and water to Hall’s content house. Not long after, the Los Angeles city attorney Mike Feuer charged Bryce Hall and fellow Sway House member Blake Gray with a misdemeanor, and both boys are now facing two thousand dollars in fines and up to a year in jail. Feuer said, “If you have a combined 19 million followers on TikTok, in the middle of a public health crisis you should be modeling great behavior [and the] best practices for all of us, rather than brazenly violating the law and then posting videos about it, as we allege happened here.” Although the charges weren’t drastic, it set a precedent for accountability moving forward that was previously unseen.
Some celebrities — such as James Charles and Larray — have apologized for going out and tried to absolve themselves by posting pictures of their negative COVID-19 tests. However, although it may seem good that they weren’t infected, actions like these are likely to lead viewers to believe that COVID-19 isn’t as much of a concern as it is. Soon after influencers began throwing parties again, a big spike in cases was seen in Los Angeles. According to Patch, a Los Angeles news website, the number of daily tests that came out positive went from eight percent of the people tested to nine percent in less than a week. That was back in June, when everyone’s numbers were much lower, and it has only gotten worse since then.
Although it may seem hard, it is important to remember that as viewers and consumers of social media, we must continue to hold social media influencers accountable, especially in these times. The reality is that these rich TikTokers are actively endangering the lives of thousands by way of their reckless actions, and as their main sources of income, teenagers have the ability to ensure that they respect social distancing orders and help to set a precedent for how people should be behaving in these confusing and ever-changing times.