Some Observations About Animosity During These COVID Times

It’s no secret that times have changed. If anything, it’s the only thing people seem to be willing to talk about. Oh, the world has shut down this, we can’t go outside that. It seems that so many people have trouble with accepting the fact that we’re in quarantine, and instead choose to constantly complain about it. This is the perfect time to do something productive! Pick up the hobby you always dreamed about but never got the chance to start! Rollerskate! Read! The way people in America have reacted to the entirety of the pandemic has disappointed me thoroughly. 

The first problem I encountered was panic buying: people went to the store and came out with six times the normal amount of toiletries and groceries that we normally would – for a family of four. This problem, in particular, was the only one that has actually affected me physically. I have a decent, medium-sized family with seven people in it, and mass-buying groceries just isn’t an option for us, financially or space-wise. But that leaves us in a sticky situation – my mom goes to the store, and suddenly any food that’s perishable/has any positive nutritional value is gone (and the next time they’re restocking is the next week). I understand that many people are scared of food shortages – but we’ve been in quarantine for two months (two months today, actually!) and it’s not gotten any better. It’s a fight to get to the store at a time when things are decently stocked… it’s become a bloodbath. 

Which brings me on to my next point – everyone has turned on each other. This, I think, is what has made me feel the most hopeless. Being home for so long with extended periods of free time has given me more than enough freedom to be on the internet for as long as I please, doing whatever I please. This prolonged exposure, however, is not a unique experience. People on the internet have taken to posting their every thought during quarantine, be it good or bad…and the majority of what I’m seeing is so negative that it makes me sad. I see comment thread upon thread of virtual strangers arguing with each other, first over social distancing, and then over a tangent on something entirely unrelated, like the reign of Mao Zedong. It’s ridiculous. I’ve basically had unsupervised internet access since I was in 6th grade, and I’ve never seen this level of hostility over the internet – and it’s not even for things solely related to COVID-19. Since the country has gone on pause, the amount of hate I see on the internet – in the form of comments, replies, TikTok’s, tweets, and so on – is disheartening. You’d think living through a literal history book pandemic would bring out our better qualities. I wanted to see humans helping each other, being kinder to each other because everyone is going through something right now…but it’s almost as if people have gotten too comfortable sharing their deepest thoughts on the internet, despite the consequences and hostility behind it.

Many might say that this isn’t a bad thing – people are finally showing their true selves! But if this is any indication of what the world is going to be like once states reopen and we try going back to normal, I don’t want it. It seems to me that this isn’t going away anytime soon… the hostility, nor the lack of kindness, and that gives me just a little less hope for the future.

TikTok And It’s Clapbacks To Misogyny

By Anne Baranello

If you’re anyone who’s anyone, you’ve heard of TikTok – the social media app that consists of videos ranging from 15 seconds to a minute, using a rotation of sounds to go along with the videos. It’s slightly akin to the previously popular app Vine, which consisted of 6-second videos, forcing the users to be creative and resourceful with their content. 

Tiktok as a concept has garnered both criticism and acclaim for its concept – some feel that it is a cheap ripoff of Vine, and others (namely me) feel that TikTok is a new and improved version of Vine – the concepts are strikingly similar, and yet the content is so much more entertaining and creative. What I like about this app is that the videos are based around the sounds – and not the other way around. Users take edited sounds – say, an excerpt of a song, or the audio from a movie – and create videos with jokes or messages that take the sound out of its original context. There are obviously trends of which sounds are popular, which format of videos are popular, and which dances are all the rage, but users are constantly improving and advancing the trend – sometimes, a trend gets to the point where if you had no prior awareness and context of the trend itself and specific cultural knowledge, there’s no chance of you understanding it. But beneath the energetic dances and niche comedy, there’s a more conscious shift emerging. Tiktok is becoming a platform for social change – specifically feminism and the fight against misogyny. 

Its not a new thing – not for the last couple of centuries – that women have been becoming entirely more vocal about misogyny and it’s place in everyday life/conversation, and on the internet. The internet itself gives anyone with access a platform to vocalize their opinions, and oftentimes those opinions don’t fall in the favor of women, so instead of ‘canceling’ said person and moving on, Gen Z and Millenials on TikTok have begun calling these people out and using satirical phrases to shut them down. The most popular term/phrase is “wallet(s)” (referring to misogynistic, sexist, racist, privileged men). A comment calling out a misogynistic post would normally sound something like this “aw, is the wallet upset? go build me a coffee table, it’s what you do best”. Variations of ‘wallets’ is ‘toolboxes’, ‘hammer’, and so on. This phrase is used to combat the widespread trend of calling women “dishwashers” and comments such as “go make me a sandwich”. These posts are a kind of satirical misandry – the commenters don’t genuinely support misandry, but they’re giving misogynists a taste of their own medicine. There was no distinct post that began this trend – it began silently, started small, and then suddenly everyone (both female and male) began using these terms to call out latent and internalized misogyny found within Tiktok. I find this shift in the language of the internet so interesting because women/activists are no longer entertaining the misogyny by getting upset and giving the original poster a reaction. Instead, women are casually calling out misogyny in a manner that invalidates the opposing opinion, by turning the tables. This movement has even coined the phrase “ok wallet”, alluding to the infamous phrase “ok boomer”. It is used with the same dismissive manner and effectively disarms the original argument. Just as women have been objectified for centuries, women are now objectifying men.  

I personally am conflicted about this new movement. Part of me wants to shout, “Yes!!! Give them a taste of their own medicine! Fire back!” And another part of me doesn’t like the fact that this trend is almost condoning misandry – neither side is good. However, it’s refreshing to see people fighting back against the internalized misogyny that’s an intricate facet of our society.

Getting Lost Behind A Screen

The massive wave of technological advancement within the last two decades has spurred more than just shifts in culture and social dynamics. The entirety of the modern world (more specifically, America, but generally and first world country will do) has morphed into a society that’s nearly unrecognizable from that of the beginning of the previous century. In 1920, the radio had just been invented. Now, 100 years later, students are finding the connections between literature and technology, and how both have an immense impact on our culture, our future, and the way we think. 

If I’m being totally honest, the premise of this class confused me just a bit. In registration and the first couple of weeks of classes, I wondered what exactly was the purpose of this class. Ask me two months ago, and I would have said I’m in this class to learn about technology and literature, and how they’re related to the world we live in. While this isn’t incorrect, I realize now that there’s an ulterior motive – to change the way we, as students in this ever-changing society, think. Coming into this class as a second-semester freshman, I still hadn’t really learned just how different college English classes are from that of the ones I took in high school. In my secondary education years, English class went a little like this: read some state-mandated classic novel, analyze the dickens out of it for two and a half months, and then write an essay on it, usually some form of rhetoric analysis. Maybe there would be a multiple-choice unit, filled with generic strategies on how to pass the state testing like the Regents exam, or get a 5 on the AP. Not entirely sure why, but everything I knew led me to believe that college is just going to be a more advanced version of this – reading harder books, and more in-depth and complex essay prompts. Nothing and no one told me otherwise. 

Needless to say, this semester has been a whirlwind for me. While my view on English as a discipline changed drastically over the course of the part of the semester that we had on campus, I now feel that it’s almost entirely changed since being home. Having to switch to online learning forced me to read and think in ways I hadn’t before. All my life, I have been a hands-on learner. The kind of person that needs to have a physical copy of the text in order to fully process, read, and analyze it. I prefer in-class discussions because it allows us to talk about our ideas and converse with each other informally.  Reading and discussing on a screen just doesn’t do it for me, however, that only puts me at a disadvantage in the current situation. 

Over the past couple of days I’ve been rereading certain chapters of Walden, and I notice that he consistently forces the reader to be self-aware of their consciousness, and of their thoughts and body. He wants us, as the readers, to not lose ourselves in everyday life, but rather go through life conscious of our choices and ability to affect others. Since quarantine has started, I’ve begun locking myself in my bedroom, not coming out for hours on end because I’m studying or doing homework. I barely talk to my siblings and only really stop to eat or dawdle. But in reading Walden, I realized that it’s so easy to lose yourself in front of a computer screen, and come out dazed, forgetting who and where you are. 

Taking this English class has more than changed my view of English as a discipline, but it’s changed my view on everyday life. I now walk through my house aware of every step I am taking, and everything I say. I sat down to reread one of my favorite fantasy novels the other night, and I was constantly reminded of Walden and Thoreau’s plea to have us find meaning in everything. In rereading that novel, I came out with an entirely different point of view on the characters and their actions – they are just as unselfaware as I was. 

Before this class, I had an immature and primitive view of English. The object was to read books, analyze, and write essays. What I didn’t realize, however, is just how immensely English can change the way you think – you don’t need a philosophy class for that.