Viral trends and the futility of trying

An attempt at the viral 'fluffy coffee' trend. (Manuela Lopez Restrepo/For The Diamondback)

Each day feels the same at this point. I wake up, essentially unemployed, at my parents’ house, wondering when all of this is going to go away and life will feel normal again. In some ways, it feels like my brain has decided to block off certain areas to cope with how alienating it feels to live a life only at home.

I don’t allow myself to think about parties or concerts or bars, because it makes my chest feel that deep, aching, coronavirus-induced yearning. Instead, with a set of self-imposed blinders, I force myself to focus on tiny goals that are achievable within my very limited and almost suffocating universe.

That seems to be how many people are responding to this strange new reality — taking it one day at a time. We’re making the same things, participating in the same trends and playing the same games because we are, quite honestly, running out of ideas, and we know these things are working. So, I decided to fill one of my days with these activities to see if I could feel something for once.

12:55 p.m.: I rarely wake up before noon on any given day, but I’ll be incredibly generous and use the term “morning” here. If staying at home has taught me anything, it’s that time is absolutely a construct with no relevance to my existence.

Regardless, I set out to make one of the fluffy dalgona coffees that have been popularized on TikTok and other social media. The recipe is a simple combination of equal parts instant coffee, hot water and sugar. The goal is to vigorously mix until a gloriously frothy foam forms and then serve it over ice and milk.

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Unfortunately, my electric mixer is broken, so I was forced to laboriously mix by hand. As I whisked vigorously, I found myself channeling the helplessness and idle frustration I’ve been feeling into the task. Nothing was happening. This somehow motivated me more. This virus has effectively sapped the joy out of my life. I needed to have this one thing.

Alas, I must not have the requisite stamina — or maybe the unprocessed sugar I used didn’t fit the recipe parameters. All I was left with was a sticky, thick coffee-like syrup and a literal blister on my hand.

5:30 p.m.: My daily shower feels like the only thing I use to mark the passage of days. It’s also typically the only thing I look forward to. After today’s shower, I realized my bangs were starting to obstruct my vision, and then I remembered just how many people are coping with quarantining by cutting bangs, with mixed results.

To be fully transparent, I’ve had bangs for many months, and I normally cut them myself. One benefit of curly hair is that you can’t notice any glaring errors in precision because of how messy it usually looks.

I sat down in front of the mirror and began snipping away. Once I began to trim, I understood why so many people are turning to eliminating their hair as an activity. Cutting your hair feels like taking back control. You can’t leave your house when you want. Maybe you can’t get a job. But there is nothing, not even a global pandemic, that can prevent you from taking some clippers and shaving yourself bald if you feel like it.

I got slightly hung up on that feeling while cutting my bangs and made them a little too short. Then, I remembered my physical appearance has literally never mattered less, and I began to sweep the hair up.

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8:45 p.m.: I can’t remember feeling more out of the loop from popular culture until quarantine coincided with the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and a Nintendo Switch shortage. I do not have a spare $500, and as a result, I do not have a cute little island filled with anthropomorphic animals who sell turnips (?) and demand loan repayment (???). I do, however, have a 13-year-old brother with an emulator on his laptop that allows him to play an older version of the game for the Nintendo DS.

He allowed me to play for a little bit, and I did feel some semblance of peace. I didn’t understand most of what was going on, but I appreciated the similarities between the town I explored and what normal life could feel like. The cute little villagers aren’t quite the same as people, but they do the job.

As it turns out, these viral trends all have one thing in common: control. You can execute a recipe, you can cut your hair and you can build a virtual island. They’re creature comforts. But whether they provide control or just the illusion of it is a question beyond me.

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