Social Media Influencers turning Good Samaritans in times of Pandemic

Social Media Influencers turning Good Samaritans in times of Pandemic

Reading Time: 7 minutes

As India tries to stand its ground battling the second wave of Covid-19 and a more lethal one, Social Media has emerged as a saviour for those in distress in India. For over three weeks now, a large number of Indians have been reaching out on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp amidst a frantic hunt for hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and medicines, and, social media influencers have become Avengers, helping out those in need, ultimately saving lives of many by delivering an access to the Covid resources timely.

Normally looked up to for fashion and lifestyle choices, this year many influencers stepped up their game and kept their work campaigns on hold to amplify the voices for the lesser heard. In a matter of few days, Guides were made and shared on Instagram on check lists, how to and what-to manuals for Covid-19. Influencers created volunteer teams and started operating as small control rooms that were ready to amplify voices, connect those in need with those who had resources and build a bridge.

Sharing her personal experience on how the influencers became game changers during the pandemic, Urmi Dagga, Co- Founder What Wear How, from Mumbai shared “Last year when the pandemic hit, each one of us was clueless and scared. We were advised to stay at home, to help in curbing the spread of the virus while continuing to live our lives with the new normal. The initial frustration that came with staying at home and not having much freedom gradually died when people found new ways to keep themselves engaged. Cut to 2021, we are much more informed and aware, can separate facts from the misinformation. With the second wave grappling our country, it is now that we should use our voice, to make a difference, help those in need, in whatever capacity we can. Be it with financial help, or with any kind of resources. The time is now, to be there for our own kin. While everyone, be it a common man, a celebrity, an influencer, everyone is united in this fight against the invisible monster.” Apart from giving out information on Covid resources through her Instagram stories, Urmi encouraged people on social media last week to join the collaborated fundraising campaign held by Flipkart and Give India to support the healthcare heroes who are struggling to receive adequate medical resources.

Last year, when the first wave of pandemic hit and everyone was holding their life together attuning to the new normal. More and more people resorted to social media to keep up their sanctity while the social media influencers kept the space alive by adding in DIY videos, brands hosted contests and added in online shopping to stay afloat with pandemic putting a sudden full stop to the brick-and-mortar retail system. Most baked banana breads and whipped dalgona coffee while creating entertaining content to keep up the spirits of the people. While that continued on one end, the mindful and the conscious ones called out these brands and influencers for being insensitive to the struggling environment. Few bore flak too for the insensitivity to the pandemic from certain quarters.

Highlighting the double-edged sword that influencers walk on, Aanchal Agrawal, a Digital Creator from Mumbai opined “I think when anything happens, social media influencers are the first ones to face the backlash as everyone questions their work. What people forget to take into consideration is that posting content is their job. Like everyone else, social media influencers too are doing their job. People just don’t take it very seriously”.

Shaili Naimish, Co-founder – Mortantra, Content Creator and Singer from Ahmedabad elaborates on this opinion as she shares, “Last year too we did help at personal level, as most of them reached out on WhatsApp groups and calls. The situation was not as severe as it is now. However, in last 15 days, the situation has been so severe that young people are reaching out on social media and tagging influencers. Every time we have someone asking for plasma, bed, oxygen, I put in the details on our Covid Assist WhatsApp group and then one source from the other, we try our best to get back with maximum information.”

Shaili along with a volunteer group of social media influencers in Ahmedabad have been constantly updating medical resources for Covid-19 in Ahmedabad and Mumbai through their Instagram stories. They have helped the community keep a track of Covid hospitals, plasma, Mental Health resources, Covid Meal, Beds and Oxygen through https://linktr.ee/CovidResourcesIndia .

This year, Covid hit quite close home for everyone. There seemed to be no time for entertainment since everyone is on panic mode. Newspapers and social media feeds are filled with devastating news of deaths and poor infrastructure and general helplessness. This time around, influencers listened to their audiences and channeled their energy in the direction which deemed apt. “I think this year the situation has become really grave for people in India and for many influencers, it is also hitting closer to home now. I do believe that social media influencers have a certain responsibility and power that comes along with so many followers” added Aanchal on responsibility that falls on influencer’s shoulders in such difficult times. Aanchal has been determinedly raising SOS calls for those in need of important medical drugs like Fabiflu, Itolizumab and Remdesivir on her Instagram and Twitter accounts alongside educating the social media users with academic information on donating plasma and the pros and cons of vaccine.

With all good intentions in place, however what also followed was a barrage of panic stories being shared on Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook. There were many incidences where full information was not even collected before amplifying the need for a resource, like patients name, age, which location, number verified or not or if the query was already solved or not. In a bid to help, over enthused teams went overboard in sharing and amplifying without verifying and proof-checking the need.

Thoughtfully addressing the query of how to proof check and verify a query without pushing panic button, Kumar Manish, a Volunteer – Gujarat Covid Support, Social Media Influencer and Social Media Strategist said “Unfortunately, many social media influencers are not using PVS steps which stands for Pause, Verify and Share especially in this pandemic. There seems to be a rush to share information without bothering to check its veracity. There is information overload without any consideration whether it is useful to end-users or not. Now, there are cases where helpless families have lost money by relying on screenshots shared by influencers believing it to be true. The influencers need to understand that they are not helping people by posting WhatsApp forward, screenshots, and other images which are neither verified by them nor checked by them. In social media, credibility is key. I would strongly recommend layman go through the profile of the user. Do read the bio and read previous tweets and Instagram posts and yes, replies on the tweets. Also, look for a photo of the user in the profile. Also, we all should be diligent and not fall for any information in this time.”

Kumar Manish and his team of volunteers launched www.gujaratcovidsupport.org, a platform to provide updated and verified information on covid related services. Started off initially as a google sheet, the website now offers reliable and verified information on Covid- 19 resources. Not only that, his team has also come up with a fundraiser campaign ‘Ahmedabad Covid Support’, that is working towards the procurement of medicines, oxygen and food for poor Covid patients.

With the healthcare system falling apart like Lego blocks, the pandemic made social media influencers as the knights in shining armor. Faye D’Souza, Indian journalist and a television news anchor has been sharing out information on the ongoing Covid Crisis. Celebrities like Alia Bhatt, Dia Mirza and Priyanka Chopra Jonas too have stepped up to raise funds. Having won the hearts of many last year by helping the migrants, actor Sonu Sood has yet again come to the rescue for those facing medical crisis. Influencers like Kusha Kapila, Rasna Bhasin, Amrita Thakur, Tarini Manchanda, Scherezade Shroff Talwar, Dolly Singh and Vasudha Rai are among the host of citizen watch committees who are using their Instagram and Twitter accounts to generate awareness and are helping with Covid-19 resources. The famed travel couple ‘Bruised Passports’ came forward supporting Swiggy India’s collaboration with Impact Guru to raise fun in helping India breathe easy with oxygen concentrators.

While influencers battle out providing the right information to the needy, there are NGOs like Hemkunt Foundation, Gautam Gambhir Foundation, Breathe India, Enrich Lives Foundation and Concern India; food initiatives like Mazdoor Kitchen, Khaana Chahiye and Feeding from Far and religious communities such as Khalsa Aid that are helping the recovering Covid- 19 patients and the poor migrants with free food and basic amenities purely on humanitarian grounds.

With cases rising steeply, social media communities have brought in a little respite by rescuing those in need. Irrespective of whether they have small amount of followers or a million, the influencers have made a huge impact in saving the country during this dire crisis.

Aishwarya Menon

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