In a lot of ways, the coronavirus has brought out the best in people. There have been endless stories about people donating their time and services to others.
Whether it’s been making masks for those at the hospital, delivering food to people on the front lines or buying groceries for an elderly neighbor, the best among us have truly shined during this time.
But in some ways, the pandemic has brought out the worst in people.
We’ve all heard the term “Keyboard Warriors.” These are the people who will find a way to complain about literally anything and everything, and they do so behind the comfort of their keyboards. They may be great people in real life but their comments on social media make you shake your head.
On many posts about the coronavirus — not on just Tallapoosa Publishers’ pages either but around the country — there have been more than a few times where I’ve thought, “Do you realize how insensitive that sounds? Do you know how hurtful that might be to someone?”
Early on in the pandemic, The Outlook posted a regular update about the number of COVID-19 cases and coronavirus-related deaths throughout the state and the county. At that time, there were nine deaths in Tallapoosa County and someone had the audacity to comment, “Only nine deaths? What’s the big deal?”
I couldn’t believe it.
Let’s use a comparative device here. If The Outlook posts a story about a car accident or murder, the vast majority of people comment about giving prayers, lending their thoughts to the family, etc. If there was a car accident in which nine people died, I would bet every dollar in my bank account no one would post, “Well, it’s only nine people. Who cares?”
The amount of insensitivity would be truly astounding and hard to defend. This is the same for COVID-19. It doesn’t really matter if the coronavirus is killing as many, more or less than the regular flu — even though the fact stands it has killed more already in two months than the worst season of the flu in the last decade. What matters is this virus is killing our residents — our families, our neighbors, our elderly.
And that’s another thing I’ve seen pop up endlessly on social media. “Well, it kills only the elderly.” Or “How many of those deaths were already immune-compromised?” While not as blatant as the “What’s the big deal?” comment, an awful insinuation is still there. The idea these lives matter less than anyone else is truly horrifying.
Again to compare: If this disease was attacking small children at rates like these, everyone would do everything in their power to stop it. Parents wouldn’t allow their children out and they certainly wouldn’t be as careless about what germs they could possibly bring into their homes.
Moreover, everyone knows someone who is elderly and everyone knows someone who is immune-compromised — even if you don’t necessarily know they are. These people hide it well.
I’m not saying readers and residents shouldn’t be asking questions. Managing editor Santana Wood wrote a great column this weekend urging the Alabama Department of Public Health to release more statistics, especially recovery numbers, and I second that plea. Readers are definitely entitled to inquire about how this virus compares to others or who are the people most at-risk. Those are all fair, but it’s not fair to word it in a way that is so insensitive the question or post you’re trying to make loses all meaning.
Those deaths are people’s family members and loved ones; they are people’s grandparents and friends; they mean something to someone — even if they are just a number on a graph to you.
Beware of how your words come across. Because they may just be words on a screen to someone, but to someone else who is mourning the death of a loved one, they can cut really deep.