By Rivka Yeker
This year has taught me that the world is and will always be ruthless. This is something that I’ve known, but pretended to brush aside. I have known the ways humanity has suffered, known the ways my own people have suffered, been conscious of those suffering around me, but it wasn’t until I met my own suffering face to face, that I truly understood how much the world does not give a shit.
We all have different reasons to live, different desires and goals, various explanations for life’s inexplicable demands, but there is something that ties us all together. It is the wish to understand why we are here, why we were dropped on this planet and told that we had a purpose. I can use the same metaphors often used for life, I can talk about how it is a game and we are merely learning the rules. I can talk about how it plays itself out like The Sims and we are being watched by a higher power. I can talk about how we all desperately want to make sense of this, but if 2016 has taught me anything, it is to stop trying to find a solution or an answer to everything.
If Western existentialism has any significance at all, it lies in the idea that while the world remains meaningless, our only purpose is to find meaning in our suffering. As a collective, a unit bundled up of social media profiles across all platforms, we have decided that 2016 has been an agonizing year that has quite literally annihilated all hope (RIP Princess Leia). Obviously, when speaking of those that passed this year, we are aware that 2016 didn’t actually kill them (even though some think pieces are trying very hard to prove this notion), we still witnessed lots of death via the web. These deaths weren’t just notable figures like Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, George Michael, Debbie Reynolds, and so forth, but they were also individuals grouped as political identities across the world.
We watched people die through Facebook articles and trending topics. We watched young people record themselves while expecting death in Syria via Twitter. We watched videos of Black children violently killed by cops. We became desensitized. We became expectant of this content.
In one short year, we watched America switch from a silly and kind of scary joke to a very serious topic of conversation. We watched fear grow in each other’s posts, we watched each other have public breakdowns, we watched everything crash while our cities remained silent and the outskirts cheered.
People talk about 2016 like it was a blur of a year, one that feels like the hardest episode to watch of an HBO original series. It feels gruesome, yet it also feels sort of like a miracle to have made it out alive. We talk about this year because all of us have experienced it together, we watched the fire start and we watched everything burn through our computer screens. We sat together at home on our couches, in our beds, eating dinner, drinking beer, experiencing what feels like the downfall of humanity.
Yet, it’s not the downfall. It is quite the opposite, actually. It is the beginning of an awakening. Social media has allowed for a chaotic, somewhat traumatic, and eye-opening glimpse of the world. We have finally gotten a taste for the insides of each other’s experiences through Live videos, and stories on Snapchat and Instagram, through keeping each other updated every minute of every day. One could argue that this has made us all out of our minds. Yes, probably, but on the other hand, can’t you feel a revolution brewing?
Maybe it won’t be a traditional revolution, but it’s one that will be built by the generation that was born learning the language that we’ve slowly been creating since the start of our social media journey. They are already more weary, more careful, and more willing to have discussions on identity and how the world works. We are still navigating and practicing the semiotics we’ve created and applied while existing in this “new” world that allows for “real life” to be everywhere, including Facebook support groups, but this generation following us will already be well-versed in the lingo. What will that mean? Who knows, but it is happening and there’s no way of stopping it.
So while 2016 has felt like one big car crash, we have to remember that all of the things that make us weak simultaneously act as catalysts for what makes us strong. We have seen and felt the worst of things this year, but it’s not the worst it’ll ever be, and it’s certainly not the best. There is so much ahead of us and while 2016 chewed us up and spit us out, I believe that we are all coming out of this geared up and prepared for battle. What we haven’t yet fought, we will, and it won’t ever make sense, but it won’t ever have to.
We might as well find a reason to keep moving while we’re still here.