“Even with coronavirus vaccines on the way, many epidemiologists do not expect their lives to return to pre-pandemic normal until most Americans are vaccinated… In a new informal survey of 700 epidemiologists by The New York Times, half said they would not change their personal behavior until at least 70 percent of the population was vaccinated.” — The New York Times
We’ve been through a lot of hardship lately, and life just isn’t the same as it used to be. We polled seven hundred and fourteen epidemiologists to ask the question on everyone’s mind: When can we go back to fixating on petty bullshit? Here’s a sampling of their responses:
When can we mock dumb commercials again?
“In the safety of your own living room, with only immediate family present, I could see making a snarky comment about, say, an ad that features a Stepford Wife serving buffalo wings to a bunch of jersey-clad bros who ignore her, and at the end she rips off her face to reveal she’s really Peyton Manning, and they’re all, like, Whoa, dude, Peyton Manning’s your wife?!, and you’re vaguely embarrassed to be American. But taking part in a trending pile-on, where your focus on petty bullshit is part of the public record? I won’t be doing that for a year, minimum.”
— Liz Mallory, University of California-San Francisco
When will we next get into a tizzy over a long book review that takes down a popular novel some people loved but others thought was overrated?
“How august is the venue? Does the critic have a reputation for being an asshole, either in prose or at parties? Is the novel content to be falsely uplifting middlebrow schlock an actress picked for her book club, or does it aspire to something greater but comes off as pretentious and derivative? Is the review merely the backlash, or the backlash to the backlash to the backlash? Then, most importantly, you’ve got to factor in gender, race, age, class, appearance, etc. If there are major punching-down differences between critic and author, I see no reason why we can’t start subtweeting about it immediately. But if it’s your traditional tenured white man picking apart his own kind, I may never again send it to a group text with an eyes emoji signifying potential drama — it’s just not important enough to me.”
— Nina Kumar, Eli Lilly and Company
When can we all loathe a couple of twenty-six-year-olds with an apartment budget of $1.4 million featured in the New York Times’ “The Hunt” real estate column?
“Given no further information, I’d say we’re a few weeks away. But that’s assuming the guy’s a finance douche presenting features of a classically punchable, Kushnerian face, that the girl is a fitfluencer, and they’re in the column because she thought it would build her brand. Oh, and they’ve got a fucking Pomeranian they spoil. However, if there are confounding variables — maybe she’s a singer-songwriter with indie cred whose music gets licensed for TV, and he sold his stake in a successful dating app, renounced Silicon Valley, and now leads a global clean-water nonprofit, or one of them is using inheritance money after their parents tragically died — then you’ll have to adjust for inadequacy and self-loathing.”
— Michelle Richards, University of Colorado
When can I be annoyed by my mother’s meandering stories?
“Yeah. Yeah. Same issue here. Tangents all over the place, throwaway dialogue that doesn’t advance the central narrative, full backstories of every new minor character. And the pauses — Jesus. But you feel like a dick for rushing her, so you have to just sit there and take it. Meanwhile, your dad’s stories are two sentences long, the setup and the life lesson he learned, and it’s basically up to you to fill in the rest. I’d give it a year.”
— Greg Duncan, McGill University
When can I go back to hate-reading aloud to my boyfriend the nauseatingly self-satisfied Facebook posts of my college acquaintance Jamie Waller?
“Look, I get it. You don’t think I miss checking first thing every morning for what smug content Jamie’s vomited up on her wall and showing it to my wife in bed? The picture of her morning smoothie captioned “#kalegratitude.” The supposed transcripts of cute things her three-year-old said that no one actually believes he spoke, at least not without coaching. That time she inexplicably convinced a magazine to let her publish a personal essay about how great her marriage is, and promoted it by holding up the print version with a shit-eating grin, then she re-upped it for those who missed it the first time around and wrote “Link in comments,” so we had to do additional work just to see how awful it was. It’s revolting, and despising her feed with your partner is one of the things that makes life worth living. But we can’t fall into the trap of relaxing too soon by thinking it’s acceptable to sneak in even a derisive snort. All Americans, particularly the upper-middle-class population most at risk for fixating on petty bullshit, should refrain from joint-hate-reading Jamie Waller’s Facebook posts for eighteen months — no matter how much she fucking sucks.”
— Anthony Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases