The warm, fuzzy holiday feels offered by a scroll session on social media this season were increasingly replaced with a mood-ruining frustration. Or, was it a deep-down jealousy? No, actually: it was a general sense of disappointment. That’s it.
I can’t help it.
At a time when Ontario remains tightly in the grips of a lockdown, some people spent the holidays alone and lonely. Others – small business owners, laid-off hospitality workers, and gig-less performers – weren’t able to afford a magical holiday season for their families the way they could just one year ago. Countless exhausted frontline workers had no choice but to work through the holidays. And millions of other stir-crazy Ontario residents enjoyed an admittedly very different holiday season – whether they liked it or not.
Meanwhile, breezy Caribbean beach shots and videos began to nonchalantly – and ever so unapologetically – spring up on the social media accounts of everyone from the uber rich and super famous, to everyday Ontario residents with extra dollars to drop.
Of course, this happens every year. The holidays – in particular, the slow-paced week post-Christmas – have always been an ideal time to travel for those who could afford to do so. Who wouldn’t want to ring in the New Year from a white-sand beach or stunning international ski town? I’ve done so many times myself.
But – as we’re perpetually reminded – this isn’t every year.
Lockdown life has been a reality in Toronto for a month and a half. Last week, as the city’s vacationers enjoyed margaritas and infinity pools, Ontario reported record-high 3,328 cases of COVID-19; public health officials are pleading against non-essential travel – and have been for weeks. Over a week into a third lockdown (at, least, for Toronto), the expectation is to stay home as much as possible.
But, to be honest, this isn’t even about obeying every single lockdown rule for me. In fact, I don’t even necessarily agree with the arbitrary and slippery-slope-filled lockdown. My faith in politicians is dwindling. And, yes, I have bent the rules and recommendations from time to time for my own reasons – I’ll be the first to admit that.
I also admit that, back in the fall (before the lockdown), I began to scheme to plan my own Caribbean escape. After all, pre-pandemic, I literally lived for travel as a travel writer. The ocean fuels my soul and calms my mind; this is the longest time I have gone without smelling its salt water or feeling sooth my skin. It’s safe to say – to even justify – that it’s beneficial for my mental health.
But, with the constantly changing rules, rising numbers, and all-around global uncertainty, I decided against flying south for New Year’s, relegating the thought to a daydream. Listen, I’m not asking for as medal or even completely slamming those who decided to safely (key word) travel during the lockdown, especially if their trips have been planned for months. It’s tempting (some may say selfish, but incredibly tempting).
To be clear, I know there are reasons – and justifications – for travelling: COVID-19 tests, COVID antibody tests, quarantine measures, small businesses to support, and even remote vacation homes and yachts that are admittedly safer than downtown Toronto condo buildings. Most (but definitely not all, as evidenced on Instagram) people are indeed travelling as safely as they can. I get that.
Here’s the thing, though: it’s one thing to blatantly “break the rules” and take your annual international New Year’s trip if you won’t forego it; it’s another to shamelessly broadcast it all over social media accounts, in the faces of everyone else in their sweats at home – some who may be struggling.
For me, the frustration and disappointment is about the sense of entitlement this decision-making represents, as driven home by the ample tone-deaf social media posts. That is, with the exception of now-former Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips; he decided to actually make it look like he was following the rules – and his own advice – on social media, as he enjoyed a vacation in St. Barts.
(Don’t even get me started on him and the laundry list of other fresh-from-travel politicians, though; that’s another story all together).
The irony for me is that many of these vacation revelers – influencers, politicians, celebrities, and the deep-pocketed set alike – are those who supposedly became “woke” to their privilege during the height of the global Black Lives Matters (BLM) movement. The BLM movement and the reflection-inducing pandemic had apparently inspired a deep-dive and subsequent sense of empathy, growth, and awareness.
But now, a quick scroll on social media offers blatant displays of privilege at its most cringe-worthy: families who live in massive homes with incomes unaffected by the pandemic whining about everything from cancelled ski lessons, to being “stuck at home” with kids sans their hired help (accompanied by a photo of their editorial-worthy living room). Worse, of course, are the vacationers happily posting away from sunny spots, mask-less on crowded beaches, as though this whole pandemic thing doesn’t exist.
It’s disappointing. I mean, if you just have to document your COVID times holiday, at least offer some sort of disclaimer, explanation…anything, really, to address the elephant in the glossy snap…Otherwise, we’re left to assume that bright vacation smile is really saying, “all I care about is me, me, me.”
I just can’t imagine what frontline workers, those who lost a loved one to COVID-19, or those with decimated small businesses, must feel when they see these images during these trying times.
Though the politicians love to drive home the point that “we’re all in the same boat,” many snap that sentiment back to reality with their carefree vacation shots that remind us that we aren’t. What it really comes down to – and I know I’m not alone in this sentiment – is that the COVID-19 pandemic has either made people more compassionate and empathetic, or as entitled as ever…and not afraid to show it.