Why I’m Immediately Unfollowing Anyone Who Takes Pandemic Vacations

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Pandemic Vacations

My mental health can’t handle another social media vacation post so I’m tuning out.

Ordinarily, if someone I follow on Instagram is sharing minute-by-minute posts of their sun-soaked vacation spot, I love it. Whether I use it as travel inspiration or just a quick glimpse into a foreign land, I welcome any opportunity to live vicariously through others. 

I mean, who doesn’t want to see Hawaii from the comfort of their own couch? 

But this year I’ve been using the unfollow button more frequently than the ‘like’ button. After a year marked by so much devastation, I’m running out of patience for people who can’t take Covid restrictions seriously. 

Kim Kardashian was first on my hit list back in October 2020 when she posted about flying her friends out to a private island for her 40th birthday bash to “pretend things were normal”. I wondered in what world was this ever normal, hit unfollow, and went back to worrying if I would afford next month’s rent. 

But this marked a change in the social media content I’d been seeing for most of the year, even within my circle of friends. 

Many took Thanksgiving vacations and Winter road trips. Parties became less socially-distanced and more crowded. Friends who hadn’t seen each other in months were suddenly flying between states for reunions. 

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The same influencers who spent most of the early months of the pandemic telling us to stay home, wear masks, and socially-distance are now treating Tulum like America’s 51st state. 

All the while, Covid cases continued to rise and death tolls soared. Most recently, we passed the harrowing 400,000 death mark — and more than 100K have died in just the past five weeks.

I wondered how many of Kim Kardashian’s 200 million followers and being impacted by these rising numbers. Or how many of them had been encouraged by her posts to take a vacation of their own. 

I spent some time feeling angry, ghosting friends who invited me to hang out after attending a party the night before, and swiping through Instagram stories looking for the next person to direct my frustrations at. 

For me, the issue wasn’t the obvious selfishness that was being demonstrated, though that is a conversation within itself. I was the way these people’s, many of them complete strangers, actions were impacting how I was viewing my life. 

The solidarity and “we’re all in this together” mentality that I found a vague comfort in back in March was gone. 

I was starting to resent my own situation, feeling embarrassed that I wouldn’t have any cool travel photos to share online or crazy party stories to tell people I went to high school with the next time I saw them.

This is a common affliction with social media. You compare someone else’s highlight reel to your cutting room floor and feel inadequate. But it feels somehow more intense in the midst of this pandemic. 

Studies have connected FOMO to a rise in anti-depressant use in recent years and other research has examined how seeing the lives of others online impact how we view our social significance. 

This coupled with the extreme mental health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic is all the more detrimental to our wellbeing. 

Already I’ve been struggling with how stagnant my life feels and how isolated I am from friends and family. I don’t need a stranger’s vacation photo to remind me that my “normal” is so far from reach.

Charli D’Amelio and other TikTok stars were viciously called out online for taking a secret vacation to the Bahamas at the beginning of 2021. They had kept the trip offline but were spotted by fans, leading to criticisms and trolling across social media. 

In some ways, I admired them for the secrecy. If their job is to influence, at least they weren’t encouraging followers to go on similar trips. 

But the reaction online reveals how these pandemic vacations brings out the worst in people on all sides. 

People allow their frustration to get the better of them. All of a sudden millions of followers are attacking a 16-year-old for going on a vacation. And after each hate comment is posted, more sadness and resentment is stirred up on both sides of the screen and no one feels better.

Unfollowing, however, would take away the power these kinds of pandemic posts have over your reactions. 

In defense of this trip, another TikToker Noah Beck claimed they took the vacation in order to get a break from social media. And while I would be of the opinion that there are countless other Covid-safe ways to do this, it’s not my place to judge how someone takes care of their mental health. 

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Just like these influencers have no idea how their actions impact my life, I have no idea what is going on in theirs. So it’s best we go our separate ways with a simple “unfollow," for both of our sakes.   

Barbora Ondrackova, a travel influencer with over 500,000 Instagram followers also faced backlash when she posted a tone-deaf 2020 recap video showing followers the 10 countries and 31 cities she’d visited throughout the year. 

Her response to the criticism was that people are just jealous. And, on my part, this is true. I am jealous. Jealous that she can tune out the news enough to travel without fear or guilt. Jealous that she can even afford to do so.

And while I wish I could change her mind, and make her think of the nurses and doctors struggling as hospitals hit surge capacity, or remind her that some people haven’t seen their families in a year and others will never see loved ones again, I can’t. 

I have no interest in joining the masses of online abuse these influencers receive. I have no desire to be a “hater”. So I’m unfollowing — for self-preservation above anything else.

One of the beauties — and curses — of social media is that you decide what to pay attention to and what to ignore. These kinds of posts can only affect my mental health if I allow them to. 

I’m carefully letting the Instagram algorithm know that in my echo chamber there are no vacations and no parties. There are only masks, socially-distant hangouts, and positive vibes.

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a generalist with an interest in lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.