Now that we all have truly nothing to do beyond write King Lear, maintain our occupational productivity, avoid the infectious deadly pandemic, pool our resources, conserve our consumption, stock up (but not hoard), and generally chill the fuck out in the face of a global death toll cresting 10,000 people, we might as well log the fuck on.
The entire world is all dealing with the same problem, scrolling and swiping at waves of headlines and rumors and oh-so-mercifully unpaywalled coronavirus coverage. We’re all trapped here. So we have to cope. But a lot of annoying things are happening, most of which involve the dreaded, yet expected, process of profiteering off the crisis.
It’s not as if the internet hasn’t changed — it has — but the results aren’t nearly as stark as those in the real world, from the barren streets to the overflowing emergency rooms. Maybe the internet was always in crisis mode, and finally the non-internet caught up. Or maybe the internet is so removed from our physical being that it’s difficult to transfer over. The work-from-home wave set off an avalanche of bad tweets; people were alternatively self-aggrandizing, condescending, or depicting themselves as the underdog, despite the fact that they hadn’t been furloughed, laid off, or financially obligated to work in public during a pandemic made them inherently a victor. We were encouraged to stay inside, and then reminded that not everyone can stay inside. Moral performativity reached peak levels.
do not disease-splain— jordan (@JordanUhl) March 18, 2020
On its face, Quarantine Twitter isn’t that different from Holiday Season Twitter, in which everyone flies back to their homelands to lounge on their parents’ sofa, argue about politics, and watch bad TV. We’re used to admonishing the life-or-death policies of the administration and global policies in general, but those discussions have ramped up to a breakneck speed while we consider our own mortality.
Unwell posting correlates with people being anxiously trapped somewhere (see Christmas/Thanksgiving) so prepare to see some extremely insane shit on here in the coming months.— chris person (@Papapishu) March 12, 2020
The great thing about all of this is that the celebrities are gone. I noticed this a few days ago, when the whispers of celebrity gossip seemed to fade completely. Simply no one cared anymore. Maybe we all realized they suck, or the income inequality and distribution of wealth (here represented by celebrity access to coronavirus tests) finally broke us all. Maybe everyone fell away from needing the distraction of the entertainment industry. Just as we began to celebrate their absence, they began trickling in. Someone I’ve never seen before sang high notes as she swiped bleach wipes across her faucet handles; Machine Gun Kelly has taken to recording himself playing guitar solos in his bedroom; John Legend performed on Instagram Live with Chrissy Teigen… sitting… next to him… for some reason. Priyanka Chopra clapped (the video has since been deleted, but it was an incredible 10 seconds of Chopra on a balcony, staring into the distance, and clapping to show her support for those battling the coronavirus).
There is much opportunism in this crisis. But we’re still in the limbo of incubation: some are experiencing a tedium before reality sets in; others are beginning to see the crisis take shape in horrifying ways. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo keeps reminding us that the vast population is not in danger, and instead we’re just taking precautions to protect the vulnerable. Unfortunately, this state of “wait and see” has been music to the ears of those who consider themselves “creators” and have an apartment full of moderately-priced A/V equipment. Now is their time to shine.
I miss hugs. When this is over I’m gonna hug every motherfucker I see— Flea (@flea333) March 19, 2020
As if tweeting “quarentinis 🍸” a week before doctors will begin to triage care and prioritize younger patients’ access to ventilators isn’t enough, why not start a hashtag quarentinis podcast? And if you’re already staying in, you might as well start a podcast called Staying In, which is an actual thing that the couple Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani did, billing themselves as “uniquely qualified to lead you through this forced quarantine situation.” Why? Because they already worked from home. It’s hard to tell if the couple’s podcast was a repurposed “work from home” project that they pivoted to “pandemic from home,” or if it was an organic idea that one of them had while doing the dishes. (To add to the confusion, the show’s accompanying photograph includes a startlingly smug raised eyebrow from Nanjiani, as if to say, “What, me cash in on a global crisis?”)
And the books. Oh my god, the books. Marie Kondo herself just issued a volume on working from home, and what better time for it to drop than a global quarantine? Let’s organize all our things so everything will be neat and tidy when the global economy crashes. Somehow, Slavoj Žižek already has an entire book on COVID-19 for you to buy and leave untouched until you’re “in the mood for some Žižek” (never). His publisher boasts that Žižek is “uniquely qualified” (again!) in this crisis, asking, “Who better than the supercharged Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Žižek to uncover the deeper meanings of coronavirus, marvel at its mind-boggling paradoxes, and speculate on the profundity of its consequences, all in a manner that will have you sweating profusely and gasping for breath?” (Presumably gasping for breath at his incredible writing, and not because the virus has co-opted your immune system inciting a cytokine storm, your lungs filling with white blood cells attacking your own body as well as the lethal virus.)
Zizek’s author photo looks like his son Bam just woke him up with an airhorn pic.twitter.com/N8nihHS54u— PAPPADEMAS (@PAPPADEMAS) March 24, 2020
There is a plausible deniability to these endeavors. Such creators can justify their properties as either necessary to deal with the pandemic, or necessary to assuage their fans’ pesky quarantine cabin fever. While the government views the economy and human lives on a diametrically opposed scale, there is a class of creative that aims to “speak to the times.” (You may recall that the comfortably bored people who believe this to be true were the same ones saying, “Now, more than ever, we need comedians,” after Trump got elected.) It’s as if post-9/11 New York nostalgia has returned, morphing from the worst is behind us; we must be brave to the worst has yet to come, but also things are the worst now and were equally bad before this; we must be brave. Both rely on a self-important sense of personal responsibility to tackle an issue largely out of our hands. And, similarly, both provide the crisis for the government to swoop in with increasingly strict regulations in the name of personal and public safety, which, if you’ve gone through a TSA line in the past 19 years, you know are hard to rescind once normalized.
Ahem. More than ever before, the internet is highlighting the disparity between our experiences. While hospitals surge and convention centers transition into wards, The Strategist coined the term “Self-Isolation Splurge.” We know we’re on unequal playing fields.
The best thing I have seen online recently is this video showing shoplifters taking their bounty and creating brown-bagged kits of sandwiches and hand sanitizers that they freely distribute to rough sleepers from a comfortable distance. Mutual aid projects have sprouted up to take care of the vulnerable, and I have witnessed a wellspring of energy devoted to how to get through this together. While we do need to be staying the fuck home, there is a difference between civic-minded nobility and ordering your quarentinis to-go from the essential service worker of your local dive bar. In this moment, the internet offers stark examples of the exponential distance between our experiences. From Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez showing off their Parasite-esque backyard to the front-facing-camera videos of nurses begging us to stay home, there is yet again, a split between the comfortable and the afflicted.