The End is Nigh – Doom Culture at the close of 2016

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Jamie Biggs
  Staff Writer

In 2012, I threw an end of the world party. The supposed end of the world was to be on Dec. 21, which resulted in my party being more Christmas-themed than anything else. However, at its core, the intention of the party was to celebrate what I had presumed and hoped would be the end of the world and all of humankind.

In 2016, everyone else adopted my cynicism and threw end of the world parties as well. Party may not exactly be an accurate word. Maybe pity-party; or perhaps, funerals. Let’s just put it this way: people were down right depressed by the past year. That 2012-like idea that we were doomed returned to the forefront of media and people’s minds for a second time in recent years.

A centuries old Mayan calendar perpetrated 2012’s doom culture, but this time around it was triggered entirely by current events — events that seemed to cause even more pandemonium than a graspable moment in time when the world was scheduled to come to a halt.

2016 can be viewed as continuously downhill — a series of disasters that hit on a seemingly daily basis. At some point, it’s assumed you have to reach the bottom of the hill, but 2016 was Mount Everest-esque to many. We just kept falling, and an unsurprising end to it all would have been a final impact that would hammer us all into the ground.

The concern of those that felt this way — like 2016 was just barely survivable — isn’t necessarily misplaced. Anyone could sit down and write pages worth of events and moments from the past year that were less than preferable. No two lists would be the same, but there would likely be a great deal of alignment and overlap amongst them. In the realm of politics, world violence and general annoyance with humanity, we all probably have a few things we could easily complain about.

There has always been and will always be opportunity to complain though. Believe me, I’ve been listening to people complain for years, as well as doing a fair bit of it myself. Someone could be having the best day of their life and go off on a tangent about what they were upset about last Tuesday. By the end of it, they’ll have infuriated themselves all over again.

That’s not to say that what people complained about in 2016 was invalid, but a majority of people settled into a similar pessimistic mindset of which they couldn’t seem to drag themselves out.

Outrage with those things in life that deserve outrage—most of which occurs outside of our own country—weren’t given the reaction they deserved, but rather lumped into the collection of The Terrible Things that Happened in 2016. Tragedy broadcasted on the news became so commonplace that the shock value diminished with each new disaster. All of this resulted in the dismal, I-guess-we’re-doomed attitude that many felt by the time the end of the year rolled around.

Obviously, it’s understood that this hopeless mindset is just that: a mindset. Most people weren’t under the impression that a presidential election resulting in an unfavored manner would actually cause the world to spontaneously combust before their eyes. It was a feeling of having no control, of being unable to stop the downward spiral that caused everyone to begin the outcry on social media of how doomed we all were.

Why 2016? Why was this the year we decided to adopt this hopeless perspective? One could argue the reasoning quite simply: it’s because of all those terrible things that happened. People aren’t entirely blind or ignorant to what’s going on around them in the world. They listened and they saw and they deducted that 2016 just wasn’t that joyous of a year.

Let’s pretend it’s not that simple though. Let’s entertain the idea that there is a culprit behind the permeation of this doom culture throughout our society — one other than all of the listable disasters of the year.

I remember seeing a picture circulating on social media near the end of 2016. It was a captured image of a scientific news headline; it read something along the lines of, “The year 2016 is expected to be one second longer than anticipated.” The image was captioned with a witty remark: haven’t we been through enough?

People shared, retweeted, and liked the bitter joke. While social media certainly didn’t just appear in 2016, it allowed for a commiseration of misery amongst all of its users throughout the year. When any tragedy struck, whether it be an act of terrorism or a political scandal, people took to social media to react and discuss in an immediate fashion.

The rapid succession at which these tragedies took place throughout the year made websites like Twitter and Facebook a breeding ground for the discussion of our cynically fabricated idea of imminent doom in 2016. Our interconnectedness through social media coupled with the particularly dismal events of the year formed this place on the internet in which you could enter into and depress yourself for hours on end, a constant stream of disappointing words and images available for easy access and viewing.

Clearly, it’s not fair to place all of the blame of this hopeless and doomed mindset on our ability to connect over social media.

That’s not what I’m trying to get at here. This year was bad in many regards, maybe even the majority of them. Social media isn’t to blame for that, but I do believe it amplified all of the negative and distracted from any of the positive. Where there is bad, there also tends to be some hidden good. The good was minimized and placed on the back burner, buried on social media beneath all of the political and outraged posts, but it was there, even if it may have paled in comparison.

Get this: in 2016, the population count for tigers went up for the first time in 100 years and giant pandas were taken off of the endangered species list. High school graduation rates were the highest they have ever been and teen birth-rate was at an all-time low. I got an A on that test I didn’t really study for. And of course, most importantly, Leonardo Dicaprio finally received that oscar. Here’s hoping for more of this and less of the terrible in 2017.

Categories: Features, Uncategorized

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