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Congratulations. I don’t think a single person who lived through the horror show of 2020 deserves to start the year reading any other word. Through a pandemic, the culmination of years of social unrest and billions of other things, you, reader, survived. But, let’s take a second to examine these billions of moments that made up our hell year. Digital culture moves fast, speeding by so quickly that it’s amazing when something manages to stick in our collective consciousness for more than a mere moment. 

As I sit here writing this, we are at “Bean Dad” day, one of the first Twitter hoards of 2021, wherein a semi-famous podcaster was lambasted for making his nine-year-old daughter spend six hours figuring out how to open a can of beans. Perhaps you’ve forgotten about this. By the time I edit this piece I sure will have, but perhaps you’ll have a slight “Oh shit, that did happen” moment. Twitter, on cue, found many anti-Semitic and questionable tweets, and Bean Dad quickly deleted his entire Twitter account. Years of online persona and fan cultivation gone in a second, a snap, a sign that reads “Welcome to 2021, we accept bullshit no longer.” 

2020 had moments like this, moments where the collective consciousness decided, “Hey, let’s focus on this man skateboarding and vibing” all the way to “Let’s start a petition to get Joe Exotic out of jail.” 

2020 was a weird year and I, personally, cannot put myself through a beat-by-beat breakdown of what happened because 12 months is too long of a time. When things flit through our trending tabs on the whim of an algorithm, each and every day becomes hard to count. So, as assembled by Digital Culture writers and beyond, here is a month-by-month breakdown of some of our highlights of 2020. Feel free to laugh, cry or silently read along. Who cares? The year is over, so pour five out for 2020 and pray it never comes back. 

— M. Dietz, Digital Culture Beat Editor

January: WWIII

Starting this list off, let’s remember that when the year started off, we were on the verge of another world war! Yes, our ex-president Donald Trump ordered a drone strike on Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian major general. The world was not thrilled, and Iran was quick to not only blame the U.S. but swear vengeance on troops in the area. Everyone in the Twittersphere responded in the only way we know how: by making as many dark jokes as possible. Sure, World War III may happen, but when it does we will have an endless amount of memes to get us through it.

— M. Deitz, Daily Arts Writer

February: John Mulaney Hosts Saturday Night Live (SNL) 

This one is pretty self-explanatory. It was the last good thing to happen in the year. John Mulaney, America’s favorite white bread comedian, took the stage to host SNL for, what, the eighth time? They should really be giving him a steady paycheck at this point. Mulaney’s talent for joke craft shines as bright as always, making his monologue and skits easy listening. If there’s one thing you should take away from this its “your dad has no friends.” Simple words to live by. 

— M. Deitz, Daily Arts Writer

March: The “Imagine” Video

In March 2020, the United States declared a national emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic threatened the safety of our loved ones, and working-class people faced an especially dangerous future. Fortunately, those in power had an answer. Led by Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot, celebrities everywhere banded together from their multi-million dollar homes and took action. Not to donate money, of course, but to post a pitchy video of themselves singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Thus, the world was saved. The “Imagine” video is so hilariously and uncomfortably tone-deaf, it feels like satire or some crazy idea that Jordan Peele scratched off the “Get Out” screenplay for being too on the nose. It ruined Wonder Woman, it ruined the Beatles and it may have ruined America. Am I being over the top? Maybe. I’m just still upset that Amy Adams is part of this. 

— Ben Servetah, Daily Arts Writer

April: Bill Clinton Album Trend

The Bill Clinton album trend was very strange. I think that’s the only way I can really describe it. I woke up one morning in April, and for some reason, every Instagram story on my feed was a picture of former president Bill Clinton surrounded by vinyl album covers that people had chosen as their favorites. As part of the post, they would tag four friends who would have to do the same. While it may sound hyperbolic, it truly did feel like this was on everyone’s story. And weirdly, it didn’t feel like anyone was excited about it, but rather it almost seemed as if people were posting this as some part of obligation. It was a trend devoid of any imagination or enthusiasm, and it also just didn’t really make sense. 

Why was it a picture of Bill Clinton? For the most part, the people participating in this trend were not even alive or at the very least conscious during his presidency. Was he some sort of connoisseur of music that I wasn’t aware of? Why was this happening in April 2020? Was the picture just now released some 20 years after Clinton’s term in office? 

The many questions surrounding the trend paired with the almost zombie-like participation in it by the masses made this trend feel as if it was thought up as some part of a social experiment by a group of corporate overlords. For these reasons, the Bill Clinton album trend was one of my least favorite trends of 2020, and I hope it never happens again.

— Leo Krinsky, Daily Arts Writer

May: Dalgona Coffee 

Is it all foam? Is it an imported off-brand frappe? Does it qualify as coffee? The jury of caffeine enthusiasts and cappuccino fiends is still out. With Starbucks closed, lockdown saw the advent of a South Korean drink trend. Dalgona Coffee (which doesn’t actually contain dalgona, a Korean toffee) is made by topping milk with a whipped mixture of instant coffee, sugar and hot water. For weeks, my friends and acquaintances scourged supermarket aisles seeking dry, instant coffee mix (very common in Korea, less so in the U.S.). Some elite were successful, boasting picture-ready mocha gradients in gleaming, tall glasses. But other efforts to re-create the drink were less successful. Lizzo expressed lockdown DIY frustration best. Quite simply: “Shit don’t work.”

— Elizabeth Yoon, Daily Arts Writer

June: Future Texting Meme 

In these trying times, most all young adults were forced back into the confines of their parents’ homes. Because of this, many young adults (not me, though) had nothing better to do than text their ex-significant others from high school. 

It’s natural. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I totally did not do it. 

Anyway, these unprecedented times brought back the Future texting meme, which first surfaced during Thanksgiving of 2019. In essence, the Future texting meme is a picture of Future, who is notorious for rapping about missing his past lovers, combined with captions of potential texts to one’s ex. The texts usually utilize some current event as a jumping-off point to start talking to the person. I personally do not understand why someone would do this, but it seems as if other people really resonated. With all the uncertainty going on during June lockdown, there were plenty of current events to use, which made the meme ultra-viral. It was a great time for memes and a great time for asking ex-significant others how their mother was holding up (not for me, though).

— Leo Krinsky, Daily Arts Writer

July: Everything is cake 

In July, the world started to fall apart. I’m not talking about the rise in COVID-19 or America withdrawing from the WHO or political unrest nationwide. No, I’m talking about something much more critical to how we perceive ourselves and our world around us. 

For one month, in July 2020, everything was cake. 

There was no warning or apparent information as to why this was happening. But wherever you looked on social media, you’d find cake. A video of a seemingly harmless flower pot would take a dark and twisted turn when a knife appeared and cut it in half, revealing that it was not in fact a flower pot, but instead had been cake the whole time. 

These hyper-realistic creations sewed distrust between people and objects, person and person. Your eyes were no longer trustworthy. At any point, the cool thing you were looking at on the internet could suddenly morph into a delectable dessert, and there was nothing you could do about it. And that was a scary feeling. 

Even now, six months later, I hear a little voice in the back of my head repeating the same question as a I scroll through my Instagram feed: “Is this cake?”

— Leo Krinsky, Daily Arts Writer

August 2020: Kamala Harris for VP

Reading history, it’s amazing that a momentous occasion in history just happens. There can be precursors to lead up but sometimes, a moment of giant change predicated on decades long of struggles is met with a shrug. Doubly so when you consider the entirety of 2020 was full of once in a lifetime moments that we know will be in our children’s history textbooks. Still, no matter how much we knew that Kamala Harris would be Joe Biden’s pick for vice president, the event was not something to simply brush off. 

Harris broke glass ceilings that are centuries old by accepting the position on the Biden ticket, something that will truly reverberate for years to come. Finally, young children of color can see themselves not only in politics but leading the world, and there is absolutely nothing more important than that. 

— M. Deitz, Daily Arts Writer

September: Will you shut up, man? 

While 2020 as a whole was certainly a year of political unrest in America and across the world, September was possibly the most defining month for Americans who were tired of the constant toxicity being spewed from the oval office. BLM protests entered their 100th day with little significant change to show for it other than political fatigue, a fatigue that was not helped by the grand jury’s weak decision in the Breonna Taylor case. 

This came only days after the death of the iconic Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after her years of battling cancer. Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barett on Sept. 25, a controversial choice to say the least, did not help matters. 

All of this awful news and feelings of hopelessness as the COVID-19 pandemic entered the fall with no sign of stopping created a tense atmosphere for the first presidential debate. It was, as many had predicted, a complete mess, with President Trump constantly talking over both Biden and the moderator. 

But despite that, there was one singular moment of incredible catharsis that sparked a viral sensation and a wealth of memes. After being interrupted three times in less than a minute over a question about the supreme court, Joe Biden snapped at Trump: “Will you shut up, man?” 

These were the words many of us had been wanting to shout at Trump for the last four years, and while it didn’t solve any of the issues of the day, it was pretty damn satisfying to hear.

— Claire Arp, Daily Arts Writer

October: #EndSARS 

On Oct. 3 and 5, two videos surfaced of young Nigerian men being killed by members of a special police force, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). SARS was already notorious for engaging in extortion and murder, but these two incidents prompted a massive backlash. The End SARS protests started on Oct. 8 outside of the home of the governor of Lagos, one of Nigeria’s most economically important states. This protest remained peaceful, and the state legislature of Lagos called an emergency meeting to address the protesters’ concerns. However, on Oct. 10, protesters in the city of Ogbomoso were forcibly dispersed, and one protester was killed, turning the protests violent. 

The Inspector-General of Police announced on Oct. 11 that SARS would be disbanded, a promise that had been made and broken before, but it did little to stop the growing protests. High profile celebrities such as Davido joined the protests as they swept across social media, trending globally on Twitter multiple times over three weeks. The protests reached their peak on Oct. 20, when members of the Nigerian Army fired on protestors outside of Lagos in the Lekki Gate Massacre, which was documented and live-streamed by the disk jockey DJ Switch (who has been granted asylum in Canada). 

The official death count is only 12, but eyewitness reports and the large number of missing persons reports tell a story that has a much higher body count. The massacre quashed much of the protest, but Nigeria is still simmering with unrest as countless international celebrities and organizations, from Cardi B to Joe Biden, to Nigeria’s Feminist Coalition to Anonymous, have spoken out against the Nigerian government’s violent supression of protest.

— Claire Arp, Daily Arts Writer

November 2020: Everyone Loves Steve Kornacki 

We all remember the election. The week-long stress-fest that was a ratings extravaganza for MSNBC and CNN. Waiting for election results was like continually watching “Uncut Gems” on repeat and in slow motion: You may know the outcome and hope for the best, but you cannot help but feel something unreal could happen and change the ending anyway. The only way I got through this time, just like many others, was by watching heartthrob analyst Steve Kornacki on TV. The man is dad chic; his pencil-pusher look combined with his perfect analysis of numbers to provide pure alleviation to all viewers. People purchased mugs with his face on them, and the national attention even caused the NFL to hire him for post-season analysis. We all know the true hero of November is this man and his khakis.

— M. Deitz, Daily Arts Writer

December 2020: Cyberpunk 2077 Bombs

There was a lot going on at the close of the year, but nothing stood out more than the launch, and subsequent failure, of CD Projekt Red’s “Cyberpunk 2077.” One of the most anticipated games for almost a decade, the game finally launched in mid-December after numerous delays. People expected one of the best games of the Western RPG genre that pushed the graphics and world to their limit. 

What they got was a buggy, half-finished mess that executives truly believed was fit for consumer use. CDPR lost not only respect and prestige for lying about the product but sparked an entirely new debate on workplace conduct, crunch and how quality assurance testers are treated. While the world waits patiently for patches and a true next-gen version to make the game playable for all, the repercussions of its failures will surely affect the video game industry for years to come. 

— M. Deitz, Daily Arts Writer