Say it with us: social media influencers are not the authority on COVID-19 no matter how many millions of followers they have. While we've lost faith in humanity over people believing the dumbest of hoaxes recently, it's refreshing to see Indonesians fighting back against some very questionable and definitely bogus "tips" to prevent COVID-19 by an influencer.
That influencer is Dinda Shafay, who's active on Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 20-year-old vlogger mostly posted videos about her travels, makeup tutorials, and DIY skincare tips – the latter usually revolving around her "glow-up" over the years, including skin lightening and weight loss (note: we think every skin color and body type is beautiful).
Starting from around the time Indonesia reported its first COVID-19 cases last month, Dinda uploaded several COVID-19 prevention tutorials on her accounts, beginning with a DIY video for hand sanitizers in mid-March that she posted on Youtube and TikTok.
In the video, she claimed that her concoction of aloe vera gel and 96 percent alcohol have fulfilled WHO standard and that it's "99% similar" to real hand sanitizers on the market (Spoiler alert: it's not, and the real deal is definitely more complicated than she is suggesting – just wash your hands with soap regularly, please.).
Doctors, medical students, as well as netizens reacted by demanding her to take down the video. That is something she actually did initially, but we found that the video is available for viewing on her Youtube channel at the time of writing.
Despite the public scorn, Dinda later posted photos and videos of herself wearing latex gloves to shop at a supermarket, and later touching her face with them. Netizens duly called her out for using gloves that are supposed to be prioritized for health workers.
Dinda responded by issuing an apology, stating that she'd donate her remaining gloves to medical workers.
As if those two incidents weren't enough, Dinda was back in action very recently with another tutorial video, where she poured antiseptic liquid Dettol and a bottle of drinking water into a diffuser device normally filled with essential oils. According to Dinda, this is effective in cleansing a room of virus, dust and bacteria.
"Anti-coronavirus check," Dinda said in the beginning of her latest video, borrowing a TikTok trend in which teenagers say "private school check" to show off high-end facilities in their schools.
Naturally, her tutorial has been on the receiving end of some hefty criticism from both medical professionals and the public.
"Please do not use Dettol as a material for diffusing. Chloroxylenol in Dettol can irritate mucous membranes in the respiratory tract," Aan Kusumandaru, a doctor with a significant Twitter presence, said in the tweet above.
The diffuser tutorial has since been taken down from her TikTok account, although the reposts have made its rounds on other platforms, especially Twitter.
In a series of Instagram stories, Dinda claimed that she made the diffuser tutorial around the same time as the hand sanitizer video, highlighting how she was wearing the same clothes for both videos and said that she doesn't need to clarify her intentions once again.
"They said I deliberately made the same mistake for the second time. Now I'm really confused on how to respond? Because the case was closed with my apology. Why make it big again?
"I didn't want to give my clarification because people will call me too dramatic, too this, too that, so what should I do? If I clarify [the controversy] people will say 'you clarify too much,' so just gimme one answer, what should I do?" Dinda wrote in her stories.
Aside from the widespread criticism on the internet, we'll never know if people out there took Dinda's tutorials as fact. We just hope she will take down all her coronavirus-related videos, and that all influencers with large followings use their platforms wisely, particularly by not spreading fear and misinformation recklessly.