2016 Was Either Horrible Or Not Bad: How To Be Original On The Internet
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Politics and Activism

2016 Was Either Horrible Or Not Bad: How To Be Original On The Internet

A bizarre year and how we all used it to connect or divide

2016 Was Either Horrible Or Not Bad: How To Be Original On The Internet

2016 was apparently awful. I didn't notice at first, because in my own little world it was a year of good things and bad things, struggle meeting sometimes with defeat and sometimes with victory, sorrows and joys. It was, like most of life and in so many words, complicated. I wasn't aware that 2016 was an exceptionally vile twelve months for humanity until a couple months or so ago. While I was accustomed to viewing years of my life as having individual moods or themes, rather than years of human history, this somewhat made sense. Between numerous deaths of beloved celebrities, atrocities abroad, and a political contest between a bland, awkward, corrupt establishment candidate and a colorful, entertaining, corrupt establishment candidate, the past year did have a troubled atmosphere. It often felt haunted and sinister, like it was the dawn of a new dark age.

That is, according to the unthinking masses. About a month after the "2016 was awful" posts and memes, I started seeing posts condemning people for saying 2016 sucked. "Stop blaming a unit of time for your problems-the problem is you" said a re-post by a friend of a tweet from an anonymous would-be cyber Nietzsche I don't feel like scrolling though my feed to find.

We can always expect snarky reality checks from unappreciated intellectuals on Reddit, Twitter, the comments sections of various sites, and other dark corners of the internet, but this time writers for various news sites got in on provoking the sheeple, too. Some of my Odyssey compatriots chided the public for thinking 2016 was pretty bad, and so did more established journalists at NPR and CNN.

I find this weird. People, whether John Oliver or your buddies from class, were clearly indulging in the "2016 was awful" meme for very clear, reasonable, and human reasons. They were sharing camaraderie about the various recent events that were dispiriting and did little to alleviate anxiety over an uncertain future, particularly for millennials, who are trying to forge a future for themselves in a world that appears often unwelcoming and chaotic. Personifying a unit of time like 2016 and declaring it, like a person or institution, clearly awful may be a bit silly, but personifying 2016 and defending it against "unfair attacks" is even sillier.

Everyone likes to be the one stand-out person in a discussion, the one who suddenly blows everyone away with how sarcastic, original, passionate or disaffected their position is. We've all seen (or been) that person who tries to step grandly into a comments section argument and be the one impressively above it all, whether through genial condescension ("now now children, calm down lol") or nihilism, by commenting and letting everyone know how much they are relishing the anger and "chaos," and posting gifs of Michael Jackson eating popcorn. Either way, it's an easy route to take, vaguely implying you have views different from those of anyone involved but too complex to explain, while contributing nothing to the discussion. This instinct toward I'm-different knee-jerk contrarianism is practiced not just by trolls, but by large swaths of western internet dwellers, and has found its expression most lately in the weird defenses of 2016 and the snide dismissals of the well-intentioned people wearing safety pins after the electoral college voted for Trump, whether they were liberals decrying the pins as crypto-racist celebrations of white privilege, or Trump supporters smirkingly suggesting wearing them to "promote conversation."

Another year is over. It's likely that, like mine, it went by quicker than any year before it. Whether your 2016 was great, bad, or okay, I wish you, and all of us, a 2017 filled with lessons and adventures. Let's embrace this next chapter of the interesting epoch we live in boldly, and grow, braver, humbler, and wiser in the process.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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