is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
The plethora of online videos showing doctors and nurses doing synchronised dance routines are supposed to show their positive spirit in the face of a killer virus. But they’re just frivolous – and they send the wrong message.
It is a cruel irony that the coronavirus is killing frontline NHS staff, the very people trying their hardest to help the invisible killer’s victims. We, as a nation, rightly give thanks for their sacrifice and happily turn out once a week to clap the bravery of their colleagues.
But please, for sanity’s sake, stop the dancing TikTok videos.
Because the more we see of frivolity in the hospital workplace, however well meaning it is, the more we think “Oh, things mustn’t be that bad,” if the struggling doctors and nurses somehow have time to rehearse, filter and film a video before posting it online for the admiration of everyone.
Somehow, that’s sending a bit of a mixed message when there are daily complaints about the lack of coronavirus testing available to health workers and a dire shortage of personal protection equipment.
Today’s minute’s silence in honour of the nearly 100 NHS workers who have died doing their duty is a far more fitting and reflective tribute to those who have paid the ultimate price with their lives, and sends a message of true humanity in the face of such adversity – far more so than larking about on video and posting it on TikTok.
The good times vibe of the videos is in stark contrast to the news bulletins every night. The most depressing TV you can possibly watch is jammed with stories of NHS staff who are unprepared and unprotected when dealing with those suffering from the virus.
Tearful husbands, wives and children relate their terrible experiences, accompanied by the inevitable photos of the dead family member looking full of life and joy at a birthday party, at a wedding, or on holiday somewhere nice.
Then we have the dance videos of uniformed nurses prancing around in their precious masks.
I get it. Laughter in the face of peril. Positivity over pandemic. Triumph over tragedy. Sure.
But one coronavirus video is enough, and that came around the start of March when health officials in Ecuador rehashed a three-year-old clip they’d made with a new song showing a bunch of nurses, apparently dancing with bucketloads of Latin style, in a hospital car park singing the ‘How to Wash Your Hands’ song.
That was an important public health message, and we even had our own British twist on it when advised to sing either the first verse of ‘God Save the Queen’ (who knows the rest anyway?) or ‘Happy Birthday’ a couple of times.
Fine. A good simple message even a child could understand.
But then it all morphed into something else. It seemed that, somehow, this had laid down the gauntlet to the narcissists that inhabit social media, who needed to mess about on their phone cameras and share the results on a social media platform.
The all-singing, all-dancing videos have become not only duff, but also a distraction – and frankly, how many times can you listen to the Weeknd’s ‘Blinding Lights’ track before you want to tear off your own ears?
We’ve had dancing NHS nurses from Inverness to the Isle of Wight, all in the name of ‘keeping spirits up’. By all means, have a break from the harrowing work being done, even do a little dance if you fancy it (hopefully away from the sight of dying patients).
Film it, put a soundtrack on it, and leave it on your phone.
Because adding to TikTok owner ByteDance’s revenue streams by sharing your ‘hilarious’ challenge videos with the rest of the world and inadvertently boosting the individual wealth of secretive oddball Chinese billionaire Zhang Yiming (current estimate: $16 billion) is not something that should be encouraged.
Bearing in mind China’s central role in the pandemic, you have to wonder whether giving one of its reclusive billionaires the chance to make money through in-app purchases and advertising during a crisis that began in Wuhan is appropriate.
I’m not so sure it is.