A group of my friends are sending their screen time usage in the WhatsApp group chat we all try (and, personally, fail) to keep up with. Laura’s usage is up by 84% and Damaris is on her phone for eight hours a day. The reason? COVID-19, a disease caused by a corona virus spreading fast across countries and continents. Many are falling ill and even dying. However, some are lucky enough to just find themselves with a lot of spare time, which can only be spent at home since quarantine started. I’m sure some people desperately needed time off from their normal hustle and bustle. Yet, after about a day the struggle of not losing your mind to isolation and boredom becomes apparent. You’ve payed your bills, gone for a walk and talked to your mother. You have the itch to go out to a bar or a café, but you know you shouldn’t. What now? This is when being a millennial or part of Generation Z, like my friends Laura and Damaris, might pay off.
The millennial generation’s birth years stretch from the 1980s until the late 1990s. After that Generation Z or Gen Z, with birth years from the late 1990s until about 2016, came along. These generations have lived through digitalization, the new millennium, climate change, and now yet another phenomenon is taking over: COVID-19. Starting to spread in China at the end of 2019, the pandemic has since caused great fear and panic. Symptoms include fever, tiredness, dry cough and difficulty breathing. The most severe cases involve the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart diseases, lung diseases, cancer or diabetes. Millennials and Gen Z’s without these conditions would most likely be semi-fine if infected.
COVID-19 instead seems to be more of an inconvenience to millennials and Gen Z, especially the socio-economically privileged ones. Obviously, how the disease is affecting your life depends on who you are and where you live. There is, however, no doubt that many activities are affected: you can’t work (unless from home), you can’t study (if not online), you can’t get your normal groceries (the shelves are empty), you can’t go out to bars or clubs, you can’t go to restaurants or cafés, you can’t go to the gym (if you even did that before) and you can’t see your family. We are living in a time where going for a walk is fine, as long as you’re not coughing on anyone or being coughed on from less than six feet away. Toilet rolls are better than cash and there is a song called It’s Corona Time that went viral on TikTok. In this strange time, people are finding their own survival strategies and that’s where Laura’s and Damaris’s screen time comes in. Because what can you do when you are shut up in your home with nothing to do and you own an electronic device with enough data? You can watch Love is Blind on Netflix. You can listen to It’s the Final Countdown on Spotify. You can go through old Vine compilations. Most millennials and Gen Z’s have been training for this moment their entire lives. When the greatest generation played sports, we watched them on a screen. When the silent generation talked to their parents at the dinner table, we declined our parent’s friend requests on Facebook. When the baby boomers went outside to see the world, we lived vicariously through the last season of Game of Thrones. If any group of people should be able to sit inside for a couple of weeks or months in order to ride out a pandemic, it’s the millennials and Gen Z’s. This should be the perfect apocalypse for us (if any apocalypse could be perfect).
Still, we’re struggling. Social distancing, which most governments recommend or require to slow down the spread of the disease (or “flatten the curve”), is harder than it seems for many. People cannot stop themselves from going to their local coffee shop, corner restaurant or bar. Every day I see friends post pictures of their adventures to the outside world on Instagram. In Germany, there are even youths hosting so called “corona parties” where large groups of people gather to yell “corona” and cough on elders. It’s clear that the transition to a less social, more secluded lifestyle hasn’t been smooth. Of course, not only millennials and Gen Z’s are having a hard time with the pandemic; not doing enough seems to be common among people of all ages. That is serious. We must all be better. To even think about entertainment in a time and world like this is a privilege. Being bored in a time and world like this means that you’re lucky. Some people do not have the option to take precautionary actions and not everyone has enough protection. If you work in health care, you will be exposed to a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than others. If you’re homeless, quarantine is impossible. If you don’t have health insurance and you fall ill, there isn’t much to do. That’s why those who can have to step up. The millennials and Gen Z’s definitely can.
I know Laura’s and Damaris’s screen time usage might seem extreme, but the alternative of going outside and potentially falling ill or spreading the disease is worse. So, to the millennials and my fellows in Gen Z who have the option to stay home and do what you can: let’s be better. Let’s be the introverted, hunchbacked, night snacking creatures we know we can be. Let’s show the older generations, who usually complain about our horrifically anti-social behavior and wonder if we get outside enough, that it pays off to be like us. Let’s do what we’ve been trained to do for our entire lives. It’s time to step up to do our part in our perfect apocalypse.