Credit: GG Illustrator AJ Duncan (@ajc.illustrates)

Social media vigilantes vilifying students once again

By Rebecca Richard

After glorious weather on Easter weekend, many took to Kelvingrove Park to… complain about the other people enjoying the weather in the park?

Under some glorious blue skies on the Easter bank holiday weekend, Kelvingrove Park was filled with people catching up with friends while sunning themselves – and the social media lockdown vigilantes did not let you forget it. 

Twitter and Facebook feeds were inundated with photos capturing groups of young people sat together enjoying the lovely weather (by Glasgow’s standards) over the holiday weekend, voicing their disapproval of the “carelessness” of the individuals supposedly “flouting” lockdown rules. 

The question here is what these users believe their role is in posting these snaps of people out enjoying the glorious spring weather. Of course, people shouldn’t be partying in the park in their masses, that goes without saying at this point. But the police’s presence was made known as they broke up large groups and cracked down on alcohol consumption prompting careless social distancing. Is it really social media users’ place to condemn people for sitting outdoors, when the vast majority of park-goers were within the legal guidance of group and household numbers, and those breaking the rules were being dealt with? Let it also not go unnoticed that these budding news photographers were also in the park at the time – so would it be safe to say the implication here is that sitting in the park is OK for some but not others? 

Glasgow’s West End is characterised by tenement flats, renowned for having little-to-no garden space available. What are those who live in the heart of a city meant to do? Having a private garden is a great luxury most students don’t have; God forbid they want to escape their four-by-four metre bedrooms after being stuck inside since December. It seems very unfair to punish those who are playing by the rules and simply want some fresh air in the Easter holidays by painting everyone in Kelvingrove last weekend with the same brush.  

Students have been demonised throughout the entire pandemic. I think people crave a scapegoat during these hard times and students are an easy demographic to target. They’re young people with a party animal stereotype, who tend to have two different addresses for term-time and for home, and the switch between them has also been associated with the triggering of the second wave of infections back at the beginning of the 2020 academic year. It honestly feels like we can’t win. We’re advised not to return home for the Easter holidays unless absolutely essential, yet we’re reprimanded on social media if we dare step outside our term-time flats to legally meet up with people on the Easter weekend. I’m not justifying large groups of people socialising in the park, of which I’m sure there were some, but the conveniently angled photographs circulating online gave a bank holiday park setting the illusion of festival numbers. 

People are already sitting outside, which drastically reduces the transmission risk compared with sitting indoors. Surely, it would make sense to ensure people stay outside with friends just now, rather than encourage them to socialise privately by making them feel like they’re being constantly scrutinised by members of the public already drafting their judgemental tweets. 

As the days get brighter and longer, and we leave the dreary, dark days of the winter lockdown behind us, I think we’d all benefit from a bit more solidarity in these times rather than tearing down young people online who’ve had no easy ride this past year; the stories of which the media tends to neglect. Everyone deserves to enjoy sitting outdoors, within government guidelines, without feeling like the community Covid watchdogs are lurking. 

So, to the social media users policing the Kelvingrove goings-on, without any real purpose except to further emphasise the undue negative press surrounding students for the last year: have a day off. And let us enjoy ours.


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