The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.
Young people on TikTok are showing off their serious health symptoms as part of a "Coronavirus Check" meme on the platform. Despite getting criticism, the teens said making videos is helping them cope with the current crisis.
"I went onto TikTok because I knew it would bring me joy," 19-year-old Hanah Ayoub told BuzzFeed News.
Earlier this month, Ayoub shared a TikTok of herself during a hospital stay for a second cardiac ablation procedure, joking about it being a test for COVID-19. Her post has gone viral.
Even though in the TikTok she was not actually being tested for the virus, she has since been tested, and her results came back negative.
Ayoub, who's from Phoenix, said she had a seizure during her medical procedure that left her unconscious and bedridden for several hours. While scrolling through social media in her hospital bed, she "decided to joke about having COVID-19 since I was tested for it."
After getting backlash for making light of the situation and misrepresenting her hospitalization, she shared another TikTok apologizing and explaining herself last week.
"I understand that my actions were wrong," she said, adding that she feels bad for "anyone who's been affected by the virus."
However, her heart condition has left her more fearful about the current pandemic.
"Any cold or flu symptoms I get are heightened ... the concern for me contracting COVID-19 is more serious because of my preexisting condition," she said.
Ayoub said posting to TikTok has allowed her to "connect with many people [who] are in similar situations" and allowed her to feel "not alone in such a crazy time."
Joslynn Appel of Sweet Valley, Pennsylvania, made a similar TikTok to "Coronavirus Check" while she was bedridden during a five-day hospital stay earlier this month. It's also gone viral, with over 16.8 million views so far.
She's seen with a breathing tube, face mask, and feverish temperature readings.
Appel, 19, does not have the virus, nor was she given a test for it in the video. Appel told BuzzFeed News doctors diagnosed her with pneumonia and gave her potassium through an IV. She was then hooked to a nebulizer because she had difficulty breathing.
"I was not enjoying my time in the hospital for four days and I enjoy making TikToks," she said. "I think right now social media and apps like TikTok help me and others in a lot of ways ... you can’t go to certain places anymore and social media is really a way to connect with people in a time like this."
Her comments, however, are filled with people either being concerned for her health or really concerned that she appears to be referencing COVID-19 for clout.
"This better not become a trend, if you don't have [it] we shouldn't be making jokes about it," someone wrote.
"Y'all dying to get famous," another added.
To that, Appel said she was "not making the video for clout or to make fun of a serious situation." It was just how she knew to get through waiting around for days for the unknown, she said.
TikTok does label and provide links from most videos tagged or referencing #coronavirus to accredited information about the virus sourced from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.