streaming wars

As we approach our ninth month of COVID-19 — measuring from the time the University shut down in March; the actual first cases are over a year old now — I have lost all interest in hearing about how unprecedented these times are.

I still keep up with infection rates around the country. I still wear a mask and stay away from crowded public places, and I certainly don’t pretend that COVID-19 simply doesn’t exist. I just don’t go out of my way to hear about it anymore.

In March, I voraciously read op-eds that predicted this pandemic would rewire our social skills and reform our flawed healthcare system. Like so many others, I rented Steven Soderbergh’s "Contagion" and excitedly discussed the real-life parallels with my friends. Though I was anxious about the future, I secretly relished the idea that I was living through history.

I have long since had my fill.

At some point I slowly began tuning out all coronavirus-related media, skipping through podcast episodes, YouTube videos or TV episodes that even alluded to the pandemic. 

Once I realized the distinguishing effects of COVID-19 had permeated essentially all media created this year, from the preponderance of the topic of loneliness to the mere sight of face masks, I knew I would have to go more extreme. In the ultimate escapist move, I turned to exclusively consuming media from pre-2020. 

For months, I'd been resisting my (totally normal) urge to avoid a topic that bothered me. It felt oddly disrespectful to think about anything other than COVID-19. People were dying — who was I to spend my days thinking about new cake recipes and Timothée Chalamet? 

Of course, in the same way reading about far-off wars doesn’t bring them to a halt, the world did not fundamentally change once I stopped trying to make sense of the pandemic. Nor did it care if I ditched the countless articles on the “joy” of quarantine — ha! — to read Joan Didion reflect on her dying marriage from the beaches of 1970's Hawaii instead.

Despite my most valiant efforts, however, I can no longer indulge in any bit of media without being acutely aware that I am trapped in the real-world context of the pandemic. I doubt I'll ever again be able to listen to people talking about kissing unsanitary strangers in crowded clubs without recoiling a little, the words “superspreader event” floating ominously through my mind. 

I listen to stories of travel abroad and open opportunities the way a child would listen to tales of war from his grandfather’s lap. I try to distract myself, and yet these pre-pandemic stories leave me yearning for the alien but carefree lifestyle of the past.

All the while I conveniently forget that, even when living in that same pre-pandemic world, I still spent most nights hunched over my laptop — just like I am now.

Cécile Girard is a 20-year-old psychology junior from Lake Charles.

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