If nostalgia has a function, it is to distort the reality of the past. In the aftermath of one of the most emotionally, socially and financially taxing years in the world, many have taken to social media to reminisce about the ‘carefree’ moments of the initial lockdown.
TikTok user @mafeanzures posted a video of her dancing, along with onscreen text that read, “The way we took quarantine for granted makes me want to cry. There’s literally nothing I miss more than the start of 2020. Quarantine felt like a well-deserved break, the weather wasn’t real, the coffee whipped, that song, so many memories but none at the same time, our only responsibility was to stay home…and yet we still complained.
Videos with a similar — if not the same — sentiment started populating my For You page on TikTok, leaving me unsettled. How could we all have experienced such collective loss while starting to romanticize the pandemic?
To my surprise, the @mafeanzures video alone garnered almost a million likes. It was painful to see so many people in the comments accepting and showing their social media privilege without shame.
I wasn’t the only one troubled by the increasing frequency of these videos, as TikTok user @kattigemowijf commented, “I don’t know why people feel like this. My mental health care is getting worse. are arrested, I was terrified, I felt trapped, etc.” while @sunflwrcake replied, “You’re not about to romanticize this. The fact that no one took it seriously is the reason we are still here 2 years later.
People who took to social media to happily reminisce about the dumpster fire we called 2020 are seemingly blissfully unaware of the pain and sacrifice many working-class individuals endured.
The reality is that the pandemic has devastated so many people in the United States alone. The uncertainty at the start of the pandemic caused my family, and no doubt many other working-class families, to stay home to avoid catching the virus – however, as we all know, the bills don’t stop for anyone – not even a global pandemic. So with that, three-fifths of my family, myself included, continued to show up for work.
My part-time job at a local company that I loved working for quickly became exhausting, anxiety-provoking, and ultimately the reason for some of my worst memories during the pandemic. Frequently, I’ve encountered rude customers who gave me some of their favorite picks of rudeness when I asked them to simply adhere to our new reduced capacity or masking policy. My colleagues were stressed knowing that their second and third jobs were closing due to the pandemic – there was hardly any room for recklessness.
While working during the pandemic was a nightmare for many, life at home was no better. School seemed pointless, college applications never seemed to end, and the isolation became overwhelming. Every day seemed monotonous, and the only topic of conversation was the coronavirus or one of its subsidiary branches like who had died that day.
Although sometimes I felt like I was dying of boredom, I was grateful every day to be with my family. So many people don’t realize what a privilege it was to stay home during the pandemic. With 985,523 deaths and counting as of April 14 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many essential workers could not afford this luxury and had to fight the coronavirus on the front lines.
Even if the huge loss of life wasn’t a big enough indicator of hardship during the pandemic, consider the political climate at the time. Amid the Black Lives Matter movement and presidential campaigns, Americans — especially people of color — were grappling with the condition of the nation. If a public health crisis on top of a social justice crisis on top of a financial crisis is your idea of a “carefree” time you want to return to, kindly be my guest – but you have to. place of the hard workers who have carried us through the pandemic.
Videos such as the one described above are muted at best and should not go unnoticed. Too many people have exhausted themselves just to survive the pandemic for upper-middle-class TikTokers to discredit their work, completely ignore the state of the world, and openly flaunt their privileges. It may have been over two years since the start of the pandemic, but we cannot ignore the impact it has had on all of our lives.