Originally published April 7, 2020.

The world as we know it is ending — that is a fact. In the face of this ever-growing pandemic, people are changing, and the structure is crumbling. There are not enough coronavirus tests, businesses are being halted, the stock market is crashing, and people are being ordered to stay in their homes globally. Toilet paper is flying off the shelves due to a virus that affects the lungs; logic is a commodity no longer found. Yes, this is not the only product, but it is among the most absurd.

This fear is being fostered by 24-hour coverage that flaunts the death toll, but doesn’t talk about the many more that are recovering. COVID-19, otherwise known as coronavirus, is a fast-spreading disease that we have yet to develop a treatment or vaccine for. The elderly are the most at-risk, along with those that have compromised immune systems or other compounding health issues. New cases, however, are showing that there is no truly impervious group.

Courtesy of Financial Times

In California alone, Governor Gavin Newsom has been on the television every day, a surprise to people like me and my father who had never seen his face before now. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti has begged college-aged people to stay home, and, yes, he did, in fact, beg. Generation Z has taken to this pandemic in a light unlike that of the Boomers, Generation X, and even Millennials. Instead of fearing this disease— as it is unlikely that they will be majorly affected by it— they have forgone the social distancing in favor of spring break activities.

Older generations have called this selfish and immature, but there is an even deeper meaning that can be seen in the meme culture surrounding this virus. TikTok is a battleground for memes, ranging from calling the coronavirus “Boomer Remover” to those urging their peers to stay indoors. Many of Generation Z have rightfully complained that staying inside and away from people is a big thing to ask, while others mourn the loss of important rights of passage, such as prom and graduation. They have been saying that our generation is not afraid to die, but they say this in the face of a disease they are highly unlikely to be taken out by.

Amongst these memes are ones that are simply mourning the time lost and trying to lighten the mood, but they are not the only ones. Mixed in are the memes that create the hostility towards our generation, such as one by @mariaklimisch, whose TikTok, uploaded on Tuesday, March 21, went viral instantly. Klimisch has been writing the names of states onto chicken eggs, and smashing them into each other to see which will “survive COVID-19.” She has set this “contest” up in terms of March Madness, and, in doing so, has wasted over five dozen eggs in a time when people fearing for their lives are buying out this item in stores.

The comment sections on these videos are filled with those aware of the waste: “Meanwhile can’t buy eggs anywhere,” said @call911itsjackie. Upon being bombarded with these messages, Kilmisch claimed the eggs were all expired, but her biography displayed a venmo code, showing the fresh eggs need to be financed. Then, the continued making of these videos does not add up if they were expired. She also broke eggs in the name of which Minnesota city will survive COVID-19.

She, like so many others, is making light of a situation that rivals the deaths in 1918 from the Spanish Influenza. This desensitization from 24-hour news cycles has damaged how every viewer who laughs at her content thinks. They think this will pass — and it will — but not before it ravages homes and families. These TikToks show just how numb this generation is in the face of this pandemic, and just how much their civic duty is lacking.

While Klimisch is breaking perfectly edible eggs, and gaining followers from it, there are people dependent on the supplemental program to feed Women, Infants, and Children, WIC who can no longer find essential items in stores. There are elderly people who find themselves looking at empty shelves and wondering what they will do in the coming weeks, as they are forced to expose themselves to the virus again. This behavior is the crumbling of our nation. I am angry that no words have been spoken about my graduation, and how we will move past it, but I still stay inside. I am cooped up, but I care about more than my own well-being. If we cannot pull together in a time of crisis by buying only what we need, and thinking of those vulnerable populations, then we may as well be at the beginning of the Young Adult novels we read as children.


In collaboration by Quaker Campus staff members.

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