With nowhere to be but inside, social distancing has turned us all into pseudo-cyborgs, scrolling through TikTok with screen times of seven or eight hours, existing to others only in the form of pixels on FaceTime and social media. But a comforting sense of normalcy comes from the fact that everyone else is also bored, trying the same activities and consuming the same content in order to make isolation a little more enjoyable. The knowledge that millions of teenagers are also debating whether to cut their bangs (seriously, should I?) or bleach their jeans fuels a mini rush of serotonin we all need right now. But not all TikTok obsessions are created equal. Here are all the micro-trends of quarantine, ranked from “why does this even exist” to “this is all I want to do with my time.”
10) Chloe Ting 2-Week Shred Challenge
Whoever decided to make Chloe Ting a quarantine goddess clearly didn’t understand how deeply I dislike online workouts. Maybe it’s the repetition of tiny movements in a desperate (and fruitless) pursuit for defined ab lines, or the feeling of impatient dread as if I’m checking something off a to-do list, or my nonexistent attention span. The world of YouTube workouts is the epitome of algorithmic punishment disguised as lifestyle improvement, a never-ending stream of routines that promise health and a flat stomach. Obviously Chloe Ting herself isn’t the problem, it’s that the pressure to be fit and skinny has become peer-sourced. All I wanted to do in quarantine was blissfully bake bread and watch movies, but instead I see TikTok users making progress videos and talking about those up and down planks, and I feel even worse about my body. If you want to work out, more power to you, but this is my least favorite trend of quarantine. Maybe I’m just lazy.
9) Whipped coffee
I probably did something wrong, because my attempt at Dalgona coffee tasted terrible. The final product after fifteen minutes of whipping was a weird, bubbly liquid filled with unblended coffee grains, so it ended up tasting like sweetened milk with a splash of coffee. I’ll admit, I’m used to drinking iced oat milk lattes from Peet’s, which is tragically closed during quarantine, so my standards are high—but I was disappointed after so much hype on TikTok. I will admit, the process of making it was almost thrilling, like I could become an influencer and achieve teen fame by succeeding at this task, just way too much effort for a poor outcome. I feel like if Chloe Ting’s 2-Week Shred was a drink, it would be Dalgona coffee: glorified by TikTok, but kind of a lot of work. But I digress.
8) Piercing your ears
I love the maximalist, cool-girl look of wearing several earrings all along both ears, gold hoops and iridescent stones glittering in the light. So a few weeks ago, as I watched two of my friends take a deep breath and pierce their ears for the third time, I decided that I didn’t need a professional studio in order to get my doubles. No, I could just do it at home with some little studs and a sewing needle. I must say, I love the trend of piercing your ears, but it’s so low on my list because of my own horrible experience. It was around 1 AM and I didn’t have rubbing alcohol, so I used nail-polish remover to sterilize the needle, and I also couldn’t find a normal lighter, so I had to use my sort-of-broken one that smells like weed. Overall, it was probably a series of bad decisions that led to disaster, but as soon as I stuck the needle in, there was so much blood that I had to hang up my FaceTime, take off my now-stained shirt, and frantically clean the floor of my bathroom while pressing a cotton ball to my earlobe. Needless to say, I was not successful. Love the idea, but the first thing I will do post-quarantine is hit up a piercing studio.
7) Branded masks
Disclaimer: I love the DIY mask trend. I think it’s a great way to protect yourself without unnecessary spending or textile waste, and sewing a mask with cool fabric or embellishments is a fun way to make it seem like an accessory. However, large brands selling cute face masks feels like a shallow way to profit off of a crisis by marketing consumerism as the answer to our problems. A $25 set of Outdoor Voices masks or Reformation masks in their signature patterns is an inaccessible expense for most of the population. When these young, ethical brands sell face masks, the lines blur between genuine goodwill and the desire to signal to upper-middle class female consumers that they are promoting public health by looking cute. Prioritizing aesthetics is such a privilege right now, and companies producing masks for their well-off target audience is not the answer to our crisis.
6) Tie-dye sweatshirt sets
These are now a millennial status symbol, placing you in the ranks of lowkey Instagram influencers and It Girls. Wearing the perfect set in either muted earth tones or bright neons makes you look inarguably cooler than everyone else despite the fact you are literally wearing sweatpants. Maybe it’s the effortless “I don’t care about my appearance but I still look trendy and hot” vibe or the “I have enough money to spend $100 on sweatpants” flex. The tutorials for DIY alternatives are pretty cute, though, and I’ve seen at least a dozen people make mini-businesses to make and sell sets to friends. But aesthetic loungewear seems kind of pointless right now, given that nobody is leaving their house. I just can’t justify putting all that effort into something solely for the purpose of posting a photo on Instagram to show that you’re trendy.
5) Netflix Party
Netflix Party is a genius innovation. No longer do I have to bombard my friends with texts about how hot Keanu Reeves is in The Matrix and Joseph Gordon Levitt is in Inception. No, now we can watch these films simultaneously and I can provide them with immersive commentary in real time. Yay! Netflix Party provides a quiet sense of connection amidst these isolated times. However, just like texting cannot replace the magic of in-person conversation (which I miss dearly), the comment bar next to the movie cannot replace the magic of sitting in my friend’s basement and watching a movie together, sharing food and blankets. Netflix Parties are one of those things that make me really excited at first, but I always end up in a nostalgic sadness due to the connection that it can’t provide.
4) FaceTime photoshoots
The versatility of young artists never fails to amaze me, and FaceTime photoshoots are no exception. From Bella Hadid’s shoot for Vogue Italia to i-D’s “Safe + Sound” project to the 40,000+ Instagram posts tagged #facetimephotoshoot, people are using their pent-up artistic energy to create cyborg-meets-fashion content. I love seeing artists utilize technology to revitalize photography and art when so much of the artistic process has been limited by coronavirus, and the whole concept is such a funky, indulgent act helping to distract from the existentialist doom permeating everything right now. It definitely seems a little bit like Selfie 2.0 without the whole production energy of a photoshoot, but given the circumstances, the mediated interactions of FaceTime are all we have right now. The feeling that I’m witnessing this virtual future of art is unsettling, though, so I do hope this trend is only temporary.
3) Outer Banks
The sheer amount of TikToks devoted to how hot JJ is has forced me to admit that the app’s algorithm maybe knows me too well. If you think it’s going to be similar to other cheesy teen-focused Netflix originals, I too was skeptical, but it’s so addicting you’ll forget about all the cringy writing in a heartbeat (seriously, though, who wrote the line, “Did you just yeet over that chain?” And who thought Juuls contained weed?). The characters are all insanely attractive and likable, and the treasure hunt plot is refreshing after what feels like dozens of teen movies where all they do is go to school. With only ten episodes, it’s an easy binge over a day or two, interesting enough to keep you hooked but not so complicated or real that you have to actually think about what you’re watching. Think of it as a fun break from reality.
After The New York Times published an article declaring nude selfies a new form of high art, I became inspired. Not only was I going to take some nudes, but I was going to actually put effort into them. Brushing my hair for the first time in three days and putting on makeup for the first time in all of quarantine was a mildly cathartic experience, so if you want to wear makeup or play with your appearance for your nudes, I highly recommend it. Actually taking the photos was a bit weird knowing that they would be going only to my best friend (no shame), but it was fun to indulge myself and look hot for a little while. In quarantine, sex with a partner isn’t possible, so naturally we have turned to technology as a substitute. And, once again, it’s not the same, but it’s a fun substitute. It is kind of a lot of work, though. I have never been that interested in photography, but I discovered that taking truly beautiful nudes requires a serious knack for the visual. New trend idea: FaceTime photoshoot, nude edition?
1) Sourdough bread
At the top of the list is the hobby that has spent me spiraling into a wonderful role of domesticity. After an early-quarantine obsession with homemade pasta, I transitioned to the surprisingly manic world of sourdough. Reading Reddit forums on how to care for sourdough starter feels like entering the dark web but being pleasantly greeted by middle-aged moms instead. People name their starter (my mom affectionately calls ours Ruth Starter Ginsburg), share recipes, and gush over photos. All I can think is, this is what the internet was made for. This is what the internet should be. My fondest memories of quarantine will be measuring bread flour as the sounds of birds chirping drift through the kitchen. Obviously the 1950s were some fucked-up years, but I can see how women were sold into the housewife ideal. The sheer feeling of pulling out a fresh golden-brown loaf is truly what will get you through the day. Bonus points if you’re wearing an apron.
By Katherine Williams