LOLing Through The #ButtHurt
Wasn’t there a part of you that expected the internet as we know it to stop functioning after January 20th?
Given how backwards everything feels right now, I almost expected the internet and tech world to be ripped from us and sent to the Orwellian dimension the government now lives in. I don’t know what I was imagining, exactly —except for all other elements of our lived experience to match what’s happening in Washington— but I keep being shocked to find so much of what we’re used to still intact. Yes, everything is different, but yes, we’re still all the same idiots we always were, tapping away at our smartphones, making memes, and selling each other shit.
So, our Twitter feeds look like this, with reminders of our nightmarish new reality…
…quickly followed by this vapid remnant of our petty pre-November lives:
Not that I expect or want my feeds to be suddenly devoid of stupid Buzzfeed quizzes, reality TV commentary, and gifs of puppies, but it does feel incorrect to fail to continually acknowledge that these are not normal times. For example, I like this approach better:
“A lot of people feel very confused. What can you do? What can you do as a designer, as a citizen, as human being? What is good? Is good Meryl Streep’s speech about how Hollywood slays and Trump blows? Is it posting that speech on twitter and commenting “yes queen?” Is is protesting?
Is it redesigning Trump’s logo? Spoiler, it’s not. Aesthetics are no replacement for ethics. And good design has virtually nothing to offer the social sphere. Do American designers ever do anything for a reason other than burnishing their own brand?
It’s only natural that we’re trying to deal with feeling of hopelessness by trying to take control of the situation. But instead of interrogating that hopelessness, accepting how scary progress can be for people, and confronting issues that are hard to understand and threatening, I’m listening to designers talk about how they’re donating the profits of their designer shirts and designer spoons to some legitimately helpful organizations, because that’s the only way designers know how to connect with other people: buying and selling shit. And surprise — it’s useless and ineffectual. The feel-good stuff only goes so far. In short, the designers who are taking the election and making it about personal creativity can fuck off.”
Clinging to what we know, and doubling down on the communities that we feel supported by is complicated. Yes, it’s never been more clear that our “comfortable communities” are extremely problematic, and we have to reach out across the divide, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and do the hard work that comes with dispelling the deep-seated racism and misogyny that is eroding this country.
But how can we push ourselves to do better and take risks that matter if we jump so far into unfamiliar waters that we have no landmarks to guide us?
For me, the internet community — in all its meme-filled, snarky glory — has always been a major source of comfort. At the women’s march on Saturday, amidst the equal parts fear, adrenaline and empowerment coursing through me, it was comforting to sense my community there — in the form of signs like “Mike Pence Uses Internet Explorer” and a hodgepodge of meme-ified slogans like this:
Yes, there were also signs that said “53% of white women voted for Trump” and “Check Your Privilege,” representative of that scary divide, that uncomfortable space I need to become adept at listening to, having conversations within, and learning from. And that’s just with other Clinton voters! There is much work to be done, many ways we can train that empathy muscle and become strong enough to understand and to push our way toward change. If we all swim against the current, with our communities pushing us forward, we’ll get to the other side that much faster.
We’re just a few days into this presidency, and each morning we wake to a new trauma. There’s been a lot of talk about normalization, specifically surrounding news coverage and headlines:
Semantics here are deadly serious, and we should continue to investigate and analyze every part of what’s happening in history, from Trump’s behavior to how we choose to cover it.
But at the end of the day, I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that my peeps are still doin’ them, and that we can be both serious and sarcastic in this new reality:
And knowing how much Trump hates being made fun of all of this that much sweeter, no?
So. The memes, the headlines, the gifs of Melania’s smile disappearing on loop — might seem like making light of the life or death situation we’re in. But at least we have that. How I see it isn’t as “making light,” but as processing a scary, threatening situation in a way that is uniquely millennial. It’s a form of solidarity (and dare I say resistance?) to be reminded that even at the most desperate times, there is a place for humor.
But let’s promise each other this: if we have the privilege to keep LOLing through the #ButtHurt, we have to do more, too. Get out there and challenge yourself to do something uncomfortable and do the hard work outside of your cushy internet community—we have no excuse not to, and there is no lack of resources to help us find the right opportunities.
Do that. And then, go home and bless us with more of these. For the next four years.