There’s no question that we’re living through a stressful time. It’s natural to want to diffuse the gravity of the situation with a little humor. However, how far is too far when joking about a potentially life-threatening pandemic like coronavirus?
Thursday on the Inman Coast to Coast Facebook group page, Valerie Garcia, a motivational speaker and consultant, made a point about how humor that potentially capitalizes on the suffering of others is disrespectful to the seriousness of the situation.
The Inman Coast to Coast community chimed in, largely in agreement with Garcia.
“I can’t believe that this even needs to be said,” Jennifer Kjellgren, broker/owner at Nest Realty Atlanta, said. “I really want to hope that we can be better than this as an industry right now.”
“I’ve been cringing for weeks!” Nick Solis, founder and president of One80 Realty, said. “The jokes and memes have never been funny to me. I have always thought this to be a serious situation effecting many with the chance it could effect everyone. I’ve been disappointed by many people I call friends. Yet, I’ve remained hopeful and positive that things wouldn’t get to the point we are now. I am still hopeful and am keeping positive thinking we will get a handle on this.”
However, Charis Nash Moreno, vice president of sales at NextHome, pointed out that everyone deals with loss and uncertainty differently. For some, humor is the only way to move forward during such tenuous times.
“We all handle fear, loss, etc. differently and ‘Humor is, of course, the one thing that fear cannot abide: Laughter banishes anxiety and can help replace fear,” Moreno wrote. “Laughter is a testament to courage, or at least a manifestation of the wish for it, and courage is stronger than fear.”
There’s been a good deal of chatter about coronavirus-related memes and social media elsewhere recently too. In February, Barb Chung, a Kelowna, British Columbia homebuyer reported to CBC News that Royal LePage real estate agents Geoff Hays and Krista Marble had posted racist memes on Instagram making fun of Chinese real estate customers and fears about the coronavirus.
One meme that featured the character Lisa Simpson from the Simpsons stated, “The Corona Virus won’t last long because it was made in China.” The other meme, meanwhile, said, “I have a referral for some buyers flying in next week from mainland China” with a photo of an excited man labeled “2019” and one of the same man looking disappointed, labeled “2020.”
The obviously tone-deaf memes were taken down and Hays and Marble issued apologies.
In and around New Rochelle, which was established as a containment zone on Tuesday, Instagram memes have adopted a more light-hearted and educational tone, the New York Times reported on Thursday. So much so, that most teenagers in the area are getting their information about coronavirus through Instagram. Accounts like @newrotrash and @Westchestermemes2.0 run by high school students in New Rochelle and Westchester have been documenting school closures and providing other updates on the coronavirus.
The Facebook group Real Estate Memes has also seen increased posts about coronavirus lately; some more tasteful than others.
One meme by Jon Cruzen, a Realtor at Cyclic Properties-A Collective Real Estate Firm, said, “Ok, for real though: who’s capitalizing on this whole Corona Virus thing in their marketing? Pics or it didn’t happen!”
The meme received a fair amount of feedback from others through their own coronavirus-themed memes relating to quarantine or stocking up on supplies like toilet paper. However, Luc Bouillon, a broker at The Knowles/Woolsey Team, a RE/MAX franchise, pushed back at the post, reminding others of the gravity of the situation.
“The reality is someone you know will lose a parent or a grandparent to this outbreak.. I’d probably avoid making jokes about it.”
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