‘Leave me alone’

Mario de Diego. Alias ​​@ CoronaVid19. Also known as the Twitter Coronavirus. It has been, without a doubt, one of the great phenomena of the pandemic. Black humor, yes, but also information about the disease and even a part of scientific popularization. It seemed that the person behind the account who has made millions of people laugh at one of the hardest moments of our time was the best kept secret of the pandemic. Until he wrote the book How to Sneak Out of Humanity. At that time, Mario de Diego came to light, although this is not exactly his real name. Yes he is harassment on the internet to which it has been submitted since it has become one of the most followed Twitter accounts in Spain.

With or without his full name, the graduate in Social Education and a master’s degree in Neuropsychology from the Open University of Catalonia behind the Twitter account will be one of the most remembered characters of the crisis that has left more than 3 million people in Spain. infected and more than 75,000 deaths. But fame has a price, even if you don’t want it. Some have told Mario that having haters and being a victim of harassment on social networks can help to have more followers, which is already around a million, or to sell more books. “I prefer to sell fewer books and to be left alone,” Diego replied to this statement.

The tweeter who has remained anonymous for most of the pandemic talks to Hypertextual about what it is like to deal with online harassment. And he does not do it like @ CoronaVid19, but like Mario de Diego.

Harassment in social networks: the key is in the ideology

Compare a part of his humor with one of the great Spanish humorists: Miguel Gila. Although he defines him as a genius, he recognizes that they agree on parody human behavior. “He used the context of the war in his monologues with phrases like ‘Can’t we start the battle after football?’ The slightly provocative context makes it funnier ”. But he stresses that he has never published a tweet focusing on the tragedy, much less making humor with the victims of the coronavirus.

However, this is one of the arguments most used by people who have practiced harassment on social networks such as Twitter. “It seems very honest to me to defend the honor of the victims, but in reality he is not defending himself. A radical discourse is defended in which it is not interested in what you say for whatever reason, and it uses the victims not to say ‘close the account because I don’t like your ideology’ ”.

What role does ideology play in @ CoronaVid19?

«I always make the joke that viruses have no ideology but I do. It seems honest to me to show it. And most of the attacks I receive are ideological, especially from people very far to the right. Because I understand that people associate me with the left. I have even come across cases in which they do not insult me, but ask me not to make ideological jokes, ‘because I laugh a lot with you’. Are you seriously telling me that you care who I vote for to laugh at? Do you find it funny? Laugh and period, the humor is transversal. It seems to me an interesting debate: we are polarized to such an extent that we cannot even have fun with someone who has an ideology different from ours.

Have you received threats?

«I have received emails and private messages in which they told me that they had my computer IP and that they were going to come for me. That if they see me on the street they will kill me. (…) I think that people then cut themselves off. Threats are very easy from anonymity. I don’t think anything would happen to me and not coming out of the closet (and saying his full name) has nothing to do with haterism.

“About haters, I’ve been told that it can even help promote my account or the book. I really don’t want it. I’d rather sell fewer books and be left alone.

The book of @ CoronaVid19, the new victim of the ‘haters’

The last chapter that Mario de Diego has lived related to harassment on the internet has had Amazon as the third in contention. A Twitter user reported over the weekend that reviews of How to Sneak End Humanity had been blocked for unusual activity. About half of the reviews had 5 stars, the other half only one. In addition to being accompanied by harsh comments, almost all of them were published the same day. The intermediate grades were non-existent. Hypertext has learned that the majority of negative reviews belonged to unverified purchases and Amazon has removed the reviews that belonged to that activity considered suspicious.

In this regard, Amazon sources explained to this medium that the company never suppresses reviews based on whether they are positive or negative. All they are looking for is for it to be true, and so whenever they detect that many unverified purchase reviews have been posted in a short period of time, they are suppressed. The reviews, they emphasize, are intended to help customers and for other types of opinions about the products, for example with ideological overtones, there are specialized forums for this.

Mario de Diego, or @ CoronaVid19, receives uncaring messages through emails, direct messages, and even reviews of his book on Amazon. Practices on which harassment is based on the internet.

To what extent do they affect you?

“It affected me more at the beginning than now. In the end, there comes a time when you get used to it. Human beings are resilient, we have shown it in this last year. You know the intention with which you do things and since there is no bad intention, quite the opposite, you think that how it could have bothered someone. As they also insult you, the first comments are hard, but then you get used to it and you already anticipate it. You already know that when you post a tweet, someone is going to insult you and if it has to do with something political, much more. I don’t block, I silence people, because blocking them is paying attention to them ».

What has been the best and worst moment like the Twitter Coronavirus?

“The best moment was when the pandemic had not finished arriving and we thought it was the flu. At that time the account had a great account success, the character was a virgin and all the content was new. As of March 15, when the state of alarm began and people began to die, in which I thought if I should continue or not. But then I heard that it was necessary to continue making humor, that we had to try to de-drama. Even some famous Spanish person wrote to me privately and told me that what I was doing was wonderful. I changed the tone of the account, people kept cheering me on and that’s why I kept going ».

The worst and the best of us

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The change in tone of the @ CoronaVid19 account has even been studied by the Open University of Catalonia (UOC). In the study Storytelling, humor and social networks: the Twitter profile of the Coronavirus they analyzed how the discourse evolved at the same time as the severity of the pandemic. And it confirms what Mario de Diego tells us: that at no time are victims of the virus parodied. The purpose of the account is only to parody human behavior.

These behaviors have sometimes left much to be desired. We have the proof in the thousands of tweets that Coronavid19 has published since it was born in early 2019 or even in the harassment messages on the internet that the tweeter has received. It is possible that the coronavirus pandemic has brought out the worst in us at times. Mario has lived all those hard moments on the front line for his Twitter account, although his character as the Twitter Coronavirus has also brought him other very good ones. Like when he found out, thanks to the same UOC study, that his work as CoronaVid19 had helped strengthen sanitary measures proposed by the experts.

In fact, he explains that many of his followers wrote to him to tell him that they learned about many of the things that were happening thanks to the account. At a time when they were fed up with watching television, Mario de Diego’s work informed them and, above, he made them laugh in the harshest months of confinement.

Therefore, a part of the social work of the Coronavirus account on Twitter can be considered to be based on disclosure. On many occasions, the tweeter spoke with experts before posting, to confirm that his tweet was according to science. “I did not want to publish anything that would harm the measures proposed by the experts or that did not agree with what science says,” he says.

The end of Twitter’s Coronavirus?

The Spanish population has begun to be vaccinated. Despite the imminent fourth wave of infections, it seems that serious cases due to COVID-19 are gradually remitting. For some, this is the light at the end of the tunnel. But if we end the coronavirus, Is the CoronaVid19 account also running out?

Mario de Diego explains that he lives from day to day, he does not deny that he has received some offers for the account to evolve and that anything can happen. The character may fall into oblivion when we manage to defeat the coronavirus but it may be that Mario is still linked in some way to his project. Efforts that, despite challenges such as harassment on the internet, have paid off, for now, in his first book. A review of other pandemics that have hit humanity but whose moral is that, in the end, the biggest epidemic is human stupidity.

What do you think we have learned as a society in this pandemic?

“We have to be aware that human beings are very resilient. This should make us think that when we experience serious situations that arise, we will be able to overcome them. It is a learning that if we were able to anticipate, it would still generate less anxiety when there are traumatic events. We have overcome a pandemic. But there is also a negative element, which is political polarization. I think we have a mediocre political class that only transmits that polarization to us. It would have been nice to see a political class that set an example, that the motto of ‘We stop it united’ would have been true and the political class would have united ».

How do you assess the role of social media during the coronavirus crisis?

“During the pandemic, the networks have been a positive element. Imagine being locked up for almost 3 months without contact. At least you could make video calls with people, you could see your family and friends. They have played an important role and were a distraction. The negative role can be played when there is no pandemic and people are hooked on social networks.