The Age of Memes, TikTok & COVID-19: Have We Lost Our Ability To Be Serious?

These past few weeks – no, months – have seen a shift in the mindset of content producers and consumers alike. From mild jokes about the coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, to full-on denial that the pandemic is actually happening. Between the alarming numbers and toilet paper shortages, the closure of business, universities, schools and whole countries, it seems that the more anxious individuals are getting, the more controversial the memes and videos arising.

 

 

 

We’re not just talking about fake news, we’re talking about toxic meme culture and the need for “clout”. And while the internet is serving as a coping mechanism for some, there is an argument that it is also creating a generation of people with dismissive attitudes. Here are a few examples of instances where the internet allowed for warped perceptions of reality.

 

“Corona Porn”

 

You read that right. And what exactly is “corona porn”? Well, it seems like the spike in the coronavirus pandemic didn’t just cause panic, it also caused excitement. This reflected in the increase in searches and views for porn related to the pandemic. Now, while Pornhub’s reports of daily traffic increase is not much of a surprise considering how people around the world have started self-isolating and working from home, it is the question “What are people searching for now?” that is proving to be odd. It turns out that searches featuring some version of the terms “coronavirus” first cropped up at the end of January. Since then, there have been more than nine million searches containing the words “corona” or “covid”. And are there videos to cater to this demand? According to Vice, yes. A search for “Coronavirus” on Pornhub will yield more than 100 different videos.

 

 

 

“Boomer Remover”

 

I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the phrase, “Okay Boomer” referring to the younger generations’ intolerance towards the older ones. However, have you heard about the “Boomer Remover”?  Baby Boomers consist of the people who were born around 1946 and 1964 and thus, the new nickname for the novel coronavirus COVID-19 as it has a higher fatality rate the older you are. It is a mean yet on-point joke about how the majority of the COVID-19 pandemic’s death toll are the elderly. The term and generation gap has come about because of the blame that the younger generations place on the boomers for handing them a broken economy, dying planet and nuclear-armed countries – along with lecture after lecture on how they should be doing better.

 

 

Ironically, the term has picked up and blown up far more than their responses to actual issues related to the above such as the tough job market, the increased difficulty in buying houses and increase in mental health issues amongst the youth. Coupled with the pandemic that is COVID-19, it is no wonder the youth are revolting by coupling their anger and “meme culture”. With the negativity surrounding the present situation (lockdowns, cancelled travels, increased death toll), dark humour like this can be seen as both hurtful, hostile and insinuates how people are not taking the pandemic seriously. To top it off is the fact that it is not as if the virus is completely biased, younger people can get it too. Not to mention the fact that a “boomer” constitutes a beloved grandparent, uncle, aunty and so forth. They too, are as anxious as the next person and using the term “boomer remover” isn’t helping.

 

 

 

“Corona Challenge”

If you thought the videos of people pouring Corona beer down the sink simply because it shares the same family name as the COVID-19 virus, the ignorance doesn’t end there. Recently, an influencer tried to start a “viral” challenge by licking a toilet seat. In a TikTok video, she can be seen in a bathroom, licking the toilet seat of what turns out to be an airplane. The six-second video shows her crouching down, licking the toilet seat and sitting back up before doing flashing the peace sign.

 

 

She then tweeted the video along with the caption, “Please RT this so people can know how to properly be sanitary on the airplane”. Whether or not it’s an attempt at poking fun at the PSAs circulated to ensure safety as we combat the virus, it’s definitely  It appears she is poking fun at informative PSA messages circulating on social media to help combat the virus. Not only that, upon facing backlash, she goes on to tweet that she had “bleached” the seat beforehand.

 

When asked by Insider why she did it, she responded that she was “tired of some b—- named corona getting more publicity than ME.” She added that “hot blondes” can recover from anything so there’s “no harm done.” She goes on to show just how little she cares about her actions on her Twitter account.

 

 

What’s more, there are people who are supporting and agreeing with her on the platform. Not to mention the avalanche of people who are cussing her out, with her actions inciting hatred towards her and her family.

 

 

 

Why is this growing culture an issue? What started out as cheeky internet humour and trends, it has spread across the globe; they are everywhere and about everything. They are so successful because of how relatable they can be, spurring emotion and reactions within a group of people. And by reacting, you are sending a message about your personality, your likes, your dislikes and basically who you are at your core without realising that you are doing so. This emotional pull and the subsequent action (sharing, liking, responding) will dictate the direction that your consumption and the consumption of the people around you will pivot to. So in times of trouble, it is important to be wary of what you are consuming and getting others to consume. At the end of the day, do we need to be serious from start to end? No, because that would just leave everyone in a state of panic/constant anxiety. Humour is the best way to diffuse anxiety and the easiest way to reduce stress. However, at the same time, should we make a joke out of everything? Of course not. As we’ve always been told, “there’s a time to be serious and there’s a time to have fun”. Share your tips on balancing humour and solemnity down below and maybe, we’ll be able to achieve a greater balance in our lives.

 

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