The Numb Reality


Plugged In (Dreamstime/TNS)

I sat on my living room couch drinking my coffee as I burst into laughter over TikToks about the events that took place at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6. But then I took a step back and my bliss turned to guilt.

For as long as I’ve had social media, I have gone through stints of deleting all apps for a “cleanse.” But, the one I can’t bring myself to delete is TikTok. It has alarmingly become a part of my daily routine. I wake up, brush my teeth, wash my face, make my coffee and watch TikToks.

Although my screen time is atrocious from this new cycle, it has taught me a lot about news, art and most importantly, Gen Zers.

Humor is the coping mechanism that we as a generation have established. It is a way to float along the surface and not dive into the deep end of the humanity behind what is going on in the world. TikTok has been the application that allows us to normalize all of the horrors in today’s society. We repeatedly find humor in mental health in order to ignore the depth of the subject. We found humor in the threats of the conspiracy of World War 3 — the first time I can remember politics coming into the equation. We found ways to laugh at the spread of a global pandemic. We found continuous humor in the 2020 Presidential Election. We found a way to make wildfires and other results of climate change comical. And now, we find humor in the domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol.

As I woke up the day after the embarrassing and nauseating events that took place in D.C., I felt nothing. It took me longer than usual to get out of bed as I dreaded the videos I knew I would see on TikTok. But, I did it. I got up and I watched TikToks for a half hour before I went to class where I knew my teachers were going to address the news.

But I was numb.

When I walked downstairs to eat lunch, my parents came to me and asked me if I was okay. And then the fact that I was okay was the reason I began to overthink that maybe I’m not okay. Maybe I’m sick for not knowing how to deal with these emotions.

Why are there no emotions? Why am I able to empathize with others’ emotions but not grasp onto mine? How is everyone processing this?

And now it is slowly hitting me — very VERY slowly. It seems like I have grown accustomed to crises that become historical events for the history books. I have found a simple way to block out the concern and despair that SHOULD be paired with tragic events, by turning away and leading with humor.

I watch 20 humorous TikToks and then I watch one that aggressively shoves me into the deep end. For a split second my mind falls apart as I sit alone watching TikTok after TikTok. But then, I get up and everything is normal again — numb.

So, I keep forcing myself to ask the big question: is it okay to feel numb? I keep telling myself IT IS, though I feel even guilty writing that down.

The way that Gen Z has utilized TikTok has been of a wide range. But at this moment it is ruthless. The guilt is being transformed from feeling numb to laughing at things that should not be funny. But it is how we cope. There are so many horrifying events from the past four years, and if I were to get lost in all of them, life would feel useless. Coming to terms with how I cope is hard, but it is real.