Social media and COVID shaming: Fighting a toxic combination

Julian Siegel, owner of The Riverside Market, poses for a photo, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Julian Siegel, owner of The Riverside Market, poses for a photo, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Siegel figures business dropped about 20% earlier this spring at his, restaurant after someone posted a picture on the Nextdoor app of people waiting in his parking lot for food. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Humans love to shame or blame others during a public health crisis.

Researchers say the practice dates back to well before the pandemic. But the warp speed and reach of today’s social media gives it an aggressive new dimension.

People shame or stigmatize when they feel threatened and need an explanation or a scapegoat to blame. It helps them make sense of what’s happening and reaffirms their way of thinking. Then social media sites take a practice that used to be confined to social circles or by geography and make it essentially limitless.