But in other circles (especially on social media), my requests to think of the needs of others were often not met with the same understanding. In just a year, things I had said at the start of the pandemic were now met with dismissiveness, questioning, and, in some cases, a bold expression of hyper-individualism. When I said, “Try to avoid large gatherings,” others would translate that as, “Let me entirely steal your freedom.” My talking points started becoming intolerable to a steadily increasing percentage of people. I even watched people who championed social solidarity last summer suddenly adopt misinformed talking points.
Yes, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is a crucial step to protect yourself and those around you. But, at the end of the day, a few simple facts remain: The pandemic is ongoing in the U.S. and globally, and many communities have extremely high amounts of the virus spreading right now. The highly transmissible delta variant has taken over in the U.S., and there’s a possibility for other worrying new variants to emerge without enough vaccine coverage. And, as important as vaccination is, it does not make you invincible to getting the virus or spreading it.
For these exact reasons, social solidarity remains a crucial element to navigating the pandemic among children, disabled people, immune-suppressed people, the elderly, and essential workers as those populations constantly remain at risk. What we must remember is that our actions have a ripple effect that extends to those around us—and we have the power to reduce those risks to ourselves and others. There are ways in which we can practice care in order to protect and prioritize the vulnerable people in our communities rather than treating them as a disposable inconvenience.
For me, social solidarity looks like having friends help with picking up my prescriptions, grocery shopping, and running errands—all doing so contactless and with protection—so that I don’t come into contact with nearly as many people on a regular basis. You can do the same with a neighbor, friend, or family member. But also, your contribution can be as simple as maintaining basic COVID-19 safety behaviors, like wearing a mask, double-masking (depending on the type of mask you have), washing your hands, sanitizing shared surfaces, avoiding large gatherings or indoor places dense with tons of people, and getting tested regularly.
Do these practices completely implode your life? No. You have no idea who you run into in public and who those same people go home to. But these extra steps, while small to you, are huge for people like me and genuinely make a difference for others’ safety.
You can also practice social solidarity from your phone—on social media. You can continue sharing factual reports about COVID-19 to keep those around you informed, you can boost calls for support when you see them on social media, whether it’s from organizations who work with those significantly impacted by COVID-19 or it’s a personal request to help someone in a vulnerable situation to help them stay afloat.