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An Actor Steps in Where Politicians Fumble

Kevin Bacon introduces @IStayHomeFor on Instagram to prevent corona contagion.

On Wednesday, actor Kevin Bacon took charge of what leaders haven’t and urged us to stay at home. When we leave the house, we can spread coronavirus and catch coronavirus. The Italians got the memo a bit too late, and it is painful to watch. Just as it is painful to watch pictures of people who—this weekend!—flocked to ski and climb in Bishop, California in the U.S., and in the U.K., they filled the seaside streets in Sussex and Lincolnshire.

Also on Wednesday, I was interviewed on TV regarding people's corona-related irresponsible behavior. The interviewer shared images of youth filling the Florida shores, on spring break. No social distancing whatsoever, not to mention isolation. And no regulation for closing the beaches. I explained the science behind people's flawed decisions, and why at this time, leadership is so needed.

But where leadership failed, Bacon, who starred in movies from National Lampoon’s Animal House to Patriots Day, stepped up.

Getting people to stay at home is challenging. This is why what Bacon did is so brilliant. I’m not sure if he planned it, but his idea follows many of the paths that lead to persuasion.

First of all, it’s short, simple, and emotional. This is everything a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention message cannot be, and everything a persuasive message needs to be. In theory, we should be able to process complicated messages, when they relate to our health. In practice, we’ve become so cognitively lazy it’s scary.

Second, Bacon is getting me (and David Beckham!) to think of, and disclose, what we’re staying at home for. It’s a very clever shift from being forced to stay indoors to choosing it. Each of us does it for his or her own reasons. Probing for these reasons is just like motivational interviewing—the technique therapists use to get people to quit drinking. Beckham stays home for his wife, VB, and the kids. Never did this sex symbol look so sheepish and vulnerable. And adorable.

Third, as professor of persuasion Roberto Cialdini taught us, when we commit to doing something, we are more likely to follow up. Going on Instagram in front of our millions of followers and explaining why we’re staying indoors would make us think twice before going to the beach. If many go on #IStayHomeFor, it’ll become what everybody does, leading to social proof—another powerful means of persuasion.

As the #IStayHomeFor hashtag catches on, we may also see stricter government measures to fight the virus.

If you already did this and are home, I invite you to use the time to join Buddy&Soul’s challenge for achieving your goals on a platform I created for personal development.


Kevin Bacon's post on Instagram

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