Zoning in: social quarantine

Before the novel virus flew/cruised from Wuhan into our nation, Gen Z’ers’ screen time was lofty. Each week a given person may spend 10 to 20 to 30 hours on their phones, browsing TikToks, Youtube, Instagram and the like. I’m sure any psychologist would recommend against that habit, but who cares!

Ever since the outbreak conquered America, there’s been a great change. The hours have gone from the 20s to the 40s. TikTok Time has skyrocketed, with quarantined children being forced into the 15-second dances, because what else could they do? Read? Haha.

Slightly bothered by the mockery of social distancing on social media, I logged out of Instagram for a day or two. When I returned, admittedly due to isolated boredom, I was greeted by a new trend: drawing strawberries. Instagram-active teens are drawing their own rendition of this fruit then tagging others to do the same. New versions of this “challenge” took on a carrot, then a frog. My friend even tagged me to draw a strawberry! I was honored, but refused to take part out of fear of conforming.

Drawing produce is not the only challenge whose beginning correlates with the arrival of the virus. Soccer players are posting videos of themselves juggling toilet paper and doing push-ups. Other athletes are inviting their teammates or mutual teammates to “post a bucket,” a goal or whatever signifies a point in their sport. Girls—or women—are posting selfies of themselves and tagging other woman-friends to do the same, in a practice titled “24hourchallenge.” This specific challenge has it’s participant-numbers skyrocketing at the same rate our economy plummeted.

At first, I reacted to these challenges with a snarky “What the heck.” I didn’t see the point in the challenges – ignoring the fact that they aren’t challenging – when time could be spent so much more productively. But it turns out I was just being my critical, pessimistic self.

All of these challenges require the poster to tag multiple Instagram-active companions. The rise in these story-based trends do not demonstrate a widespread desperation to draw carrots, they demonstrate a widespread urge to remain connected through enforced solitude.

Unlike many of my columns, I am not writing to aggressively criticize my peers. While I never thought there was a need to see others’ fruit drawings, I have no problem with the reasoning behind it. These posts, when viewed as a whole, stand as a lighthearted and slightly humorous coping mechanism through the all-encompassing panic, uncertainty and fear. So, Gen Z’ers, continue to draw the fruits and veggies if you must. Stay connected in whatever fashion pleases you. Maybe add watermelon to the mix. You can never go wrong with watermelon.