As an awkward teenager desperate to be cool, I often threw parties when my parents went out. I spent each of these treasured basement rendezvous in a silent panic, fretting about getting caught.
And yet, when the photo shoots started, I wanted to be front and center. It didn’t matter that my mother was my Facebook friend, and would undoubtedly see these pictures of sweaty high school kids playing beer pong in her home. That was an unfortunate aside. More importantly, other kids in my class would see them, too. And when they did, they would think I was popular. That was what I wanted more than anything, including the respect of my parents. I was closeted and bereft of an identity. Hosting parties gave me one.
But they were nothing without the photographic evidence. What was the point of having people over if nobody knew about it?
This simplistic high school mindset—the desire to be cool—explains why we push the boundaries on social media. One provocative tweet can blow up a career; one salacious Snap can be used as blackmail. But we’re out there, risking our personal and professional lives for “likes.”
I’m not interested in using this space to excoriate the waves of circuit queens who flooded to Puerto Vallarta for New Year’s weekend, because their reckless behavior is self-evident. We are at the worst point of a pandemic that’s killed more than 330,000 Americans. On top of that, COVID-19 is ravaging PV. Hospital beds are full, and the positive test rate is 65 percent.
There was a safe way to spend New Year’s Eve. It did not include taking G at the White Party.
But these dire conditions didn’t stop insufferable Insta Gays (and Shangela) from posting beach pics and rave-filled stories. And that’s the biggest takeaway from this sad saga. Eventually, the virus will leave us. But our narcissism is here to stay.
Every Thotless Insta Gay who posted a New Year’s group photo from PV or Rio or Miami took the risk of getting doxxed, and then, maybe fired. But they did it anyway, because they party. That’s what they do, and they need you to know about it—and see how great they look in a Speedo. Without that fleeting affirmation, they’re nothing. What a vapid existence (and this is coming from a gay who posted a shirtless selfie on Christmas Day).
The first notorious gay quarantine-breaking figure was “Covid Corey,” who posted an Insta story lamenting his COVID symptoms from his towel on a crowded Fire Island beach. In other words, he brought the backlash entirely onto himself. But he needed to post.
We are a nation of Posters. We must be part of every debate, and since we’re entering our 10th month of quasi-lockdown, there isn’t much else to do, either. Unless you want to read a book, or something weird like that.
So of course at least one privileged white gay—and probably many others—posted an insufferable choreographed beach pic from PV just two days after sharing the news of his vaccination: “Let’s save lives,” Tyler Spelane said.
Then he boarded a flight to PV.
There is also the story of Mike Schultz, the nurse who almost died of COVID and started a successful GoFundMe page to support his recovery. While Schultz was ill, he said it exhausted him to get up from bed and take a picture for Instagram. Six months later, he was supporting the PV partygoers, and applauding another poster who said it was “survival of the fittest.” His posts indicate he may have even gone himself.
We know about these hypocrites, because people are out to shame them. The short-lived “Gays Over Covid” Instagram page shared COVID-era holiday party photos, publicizing the names of these unapologetic rule-breakers. There was a $500 reward out for anybody who could identify the account’s creator.
On Sunday night, a new version of the account, “@GaysOverCovid2.0,” launched, so it looks like the shaming will continue. This is not a heroic act. It is a call for attention.
COVID shaming is missing the point entirely. We are in this nightmare because of vast institutional failures, not partying gays. Blaming individuals shields our horrible leaders from blame. They’ve failed us, and continue to do so. We ended the year with just over 3 million vaccinations. Our original goal was 20 million.
But it’s easier, and more intoxicating, to expose others. Ruining the lives of people online is ingrained in our culture now.
Online vigilantes are posting for the “likes” as well. It can feel comforting, if not downright invigorating, to be part of a team.
Team PV vs. Team Shame. The posting will continue, and nothing will be solved. We’ll just hate each other more. But at least we’ll have our online identities. In a COVID world, it’s all we have.