[Listen to an audio version of this blog HERE.]
So, how about 2020? All of our lives have all been changed by the coronavirus, some minimally, and some drastically. None of us had much control over our current circumstances either, because for the most part, none of us saw this coming. Schools are closed, sports have been put on hold, millions are unemployed, animals are being adopted at breakneck speed, and the internet is teaming with weirdness.
Like many people, I've been spending more time online by default; zoom calls, work, hobbies, and relationships all revolve around a screen at the moment, but I've forced myself to unplug the last week or so. Why? Because the internet is a crazy shit storm of misinformation, complaining, conspiracy theories, news that (might?) be trustworthy, and rampant vitriol.
We've taken to social media to complain about people standing too close to us in checkout lines, to scream into to the internet abyss about someone we love being "at risk," and the selfishness of those who aren't living as we'd like them to live. We've taken to social media to shame people for going outside, to post photos and info-graphs that might be real or might be garbage. We find something we agree with, re-post it, and expect the rest of the world to stand up and say "I agree, too!" Then, when the rest of the world doesn't agree, our egos get hurt, we get upset, and type away furiously. Maybe, we reason, a bit of a personal jab or an insult will change the behaviors of others. Maybe, we reason, everyone else in the entire world is just stupid.
A bunch of celebrities (who, by the way, don't really matter-can we just admit it? they just don't really matter) sang a mashed-up, objectively awful version of John Lennin's "Imagine," ostensibly to show the world some kindness and love the only way they know how-by getting in front of a camera. Reactions were mixed, from "Oh so thoughtful," to "shut tf up you bumbling idiots." The New York Times even had to have their say. As I watched this all unfold from the comfort of my lumpy bed, all I could think was, "Who cares?"
Then, on a 95 degree April day, thousands of people swarmed Southern California beaches (peep a photo of Newport Beach here). The photo went viral, and America collectively lost its shit. California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered all California beaches closed, which was not, let's just say, a popular decision. Newport Beach and other beach cities voted to block the beach closures, arguing that social distance can be maintained and that being outside is *gasp* good for people. But alas, an Orange County judge rejected a request from local officials to block Newsom's order, so thousands of protesters took to the streets, shunning masks and social distancing, and well, everything, really. Why stay at home when we're the land-of-the-free-home-of-the-brave and we'll all die someday anyway, right?
Residents in New York City, an actual cesspool for coronavirus, have been instructed to wear masks anytime they go outside. Penalties for ignoring the order are, for now, still theoretical. “If people don’t follow it, we could do a civil penalty,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. "You’re not going to go to jail for not wearing a mask." You will simply be publicly shamed, either in person or online. If we were monkeys, we'd throw a banana peel at you, but we're civilized humans, so we'll simply disparage you online instead. We can't seem to control it, almost like the animals we really are.
I recognize the irony of talking shit about the internet ON the internet, but like so many of you reading this, I've become a zombie-human with nothing else to do but complain. My overarching point is: your complaints are not going to change anyone's behavior. Period.
Personally, I don't really care if people go to the beach, or protest, or wear masks. Nothing I say or do will change the actions of those whose minds are made up. But I can control what I do, who I see, and whether or not my own face is covered. There is a happy, middle ground somewhere between opening the economy tomorrow and continuing the hermitage indefinitely. I don't want anyone to die (because I'm not a monster, and most of the people acting like monsters online are only masquerading as such), but I am concerned about how people will provide for their families until some semblance of normalcy returns. This is a complicated issue, and shouting matches, especially virtual ones, never lead to good solutions.
P.S. Feel free to spam me with angry outbursts of grammatically incorrect text.