“I am not a virus, I am a human being” The Coronavirus and the Sense of fear

Campaign #IAmNotAVirus in Spain, TWITTER | @ANTONIOLIUYANG

Anyone who may turn on the TV, the radio or open the newspaper will read about the coronavirus. News about the spread of the CoV pneumonia from Wuhan to other countries outside China is constantly being posted and debated, a fact which is awakening a shared emotion of danger and fear across the globe.

This blog post will focus on #IAmNotAVirus twitter campaign and the senses of fear and touch. To do so, topics such as information dissemination, misinformation and panic will be analyzed, together with new counter-narratives that social media can conduct in order to denounce racism and discrimination around the world.

The Coronavirus and its media coverage: Information or Panic?

According to the World Health Organization, the 2019 coronavirus, COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 infection, is a type of virus that can be transmitted from animals to humans and humans to humans causing infections in the respiratory apparatus and provoking in some severe cases pneumonia, kidney failure or even death. 

From the end of December last year, the outbreak of the virus has turned the world upside down. Daily warnings and coverage have been communicated constantly throughout traditional and new media platforms since the virus outbreak. 

Indeed, according to a study published in Time Magazine, the media coverage of the 2020 coronavirus outbreak was much higher than the coverage of the first month 2018 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This intense media attention, also defined by the WHO as “massive infodemic”, is causing a generalized fear, distortion and misinterpretation of the information around the world, triggering a situation that is similar to the one that happened with the avian flu disease. This profusion information and media dissemination led society towards panic, anxiety and what is known as “fear state”.

Unfortunately, even though constant efforts have been devoted to avoiding any association of the virus to a specific geographical location or society, such as with the naming of the COVID-19 virus, huge waves of misinformation are still dominating media platforms.

Tweet from Tedros Adhanom, General Director at WHO, where he states the intention of naming the Coronavirus as COVID-19. 

#IAmNotAVirus, an online campaign against racism and disinformation 

The fear and panic of Coronavirus are triggering racists and discriminatory attempts all over the world against people coming from east Asia. This racism can be associated, although unjustified, to the sense of fear of getting infected. These attempts correlate with issues of representation that have persisted for decades, stereotyping and discriminating narratives. Here you can read 9 ways to talk to people who spread coronavirus myths

                Campaign #IAmNotAVirus  TWITTER | @ChengwangL

As Amy O´Donnell and Caroline Sweetman (2018) argue, “The digital revolution is transforming how humanity lives, works and relates with one another” (ibid, 2018, p. 217). The result of this transformation can be applied to the echo of #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus or #IAmNotAVirus.This global campaign is allowing citizens to claim accountability against a systematic discrimination throughout different social media platforms such as Instagram, Gmail, YouTube and Twitter. 

The digital campaign was launched after the activist Massimiliano Martigli Jiang went to the street, covered his eyes and put a mask next to one banner that said “I am not a virus, I am a human being, eradicate the prejudice”:

Source: Associazione Unione Giovani Italo Cinesi

The meaning beyond the hashtag campaign #IAmNotAVirus

Despite all advices to remain calm by international health experts, discrimination, humiliation, stigmatization and prejudice continue being spread worldwide through media much faster and dangerously than the virus.

Nonetheless, ICTS are transforming communities (Graham, 2019, p. 27), raising awareness about social inequalities and mobilising activists globally. By empowering people towards social justice and non-discrimination, #IAmNotAVirus campaign has become an open space where social media activists describe their personal experiences and reflections from an inside perspective.

In this digital atmosphere, mediatised societies and global media activists are debating inequalities and fighting against disinformation through new communications strategies and platforms that go beyond traditional forms of communication. This type of digital activism, such as the #IAmNotAVirus campaign, opens up the possibility for people to engage in new forms of development, convivial and non-hierarchical, transforming technology as a great tool for social change.

“The disease does not understand of races or nationalities”, Lawyer and activist, Antonio Liu Yang TWITTER @antonioliuyang

Follow the last updates and news by clicking on the hashtags #IAmNotAVirus or #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus 

6 thoughts on ““I am not a virus, I am a human being” The Coronavirus and the Sense of fear”

  1. Nice article! It is so sad…This should not happen. Anway we must fight discrimination with information. Thank you for your help! 🙂

    1. Thank you for your comment! It is essential to tackle discrimination and misinformation and support campaigns such as #IAmNotAVirus to address it.

  2. Good job!
    It is very important the media action in all this issues as they have to promulgate this messages so that they reache the population.

    1. Thank you for your feedback, I am glad you enjoyed the reading and hope to hear from you soon again!

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