Depending on your attitude—mine is bad—it’s either eerie or heartening how easy it’s been to map real-life socializing on to the internet. Hanging out virtually is still hanging out, even if the fun is dulled by physical distance. We’re still checking in and flirting and riffing and gossiping and showing up to video call “birthday parties” out of a sense of pure obligation. It’s juUuuuuust close enough to the real thing to sustain some sense of connection to the people we care about. Think, absolute best case scenario, of the ‘This is fine’ dog with no flames, just a Nintendo Switch, an N95 mask (dude, c’mon, those are for healthcare workers!) and intrusive thoughts about shelling out for a premium Zoom account.
But high on my list of bratty little concerns is an itch that can’t be scratched by carefully mediated digital happy hours or Google Hangout karaoke: I long for the comforting feeling of meeting someone who absolutely fucking sucks.
What can compare to the rush of realizing, mid-conversation, that I’ve just met someone I’ll get to shit on to my friends? Paying attention to someone’s bad take on UBI to mockingly parrot it later? Don’t mind if I do! The feigned interest, the coughed out half-laughter, the desperate search for someone else to rope into a conversation about redlining, Westworld, Azealia Banks, whatever, all make for a hurts-so-good performance that’s impossible to match online.
People also suck on the internet, of course, but Online grants a veil of plausible deniability: maybe this person just loves to do bad tweets, maybe they’re actually super down to Earth despite their wanderlust-ass Instagram presence, maybe they’re stable even though they’re active on Facebook. In real life, though, there’s no mistaking the sweet rush that comes with realizing that oh, hell yes, I don’t have to try to impress this person because they fucking blow and I hate them.
My list of petty, selfish COVID grievances (what a phrase!) mostly revolves around the idyllic springtime memories I’m not making while we’re all cooped up in the Great Indoors. But I’m also thinking about all the people I’d hate who I haven’t met yet, and aching a little over all the laughs I could be sharing with my loved ones, at any would-be enemy’s expense.