A Taxonomy of Online Pandemic Archetypes
It’s rare that we all find ourselves going through the same crisis. Of course, the way the coronavirus pandemic is affecting us varies depending on our circumstances — things like employment, health, housing, and access to material resources. But we are pretty much all stuck inside more than we want to be, scared, bored, overwhelmed, and following the evolving story of a global pandemic and the economic havoc it’s wreaking. We are all extremely online right now, and you have probably noticed that some online pandemic archetypes have emerged.
They’re not just the characters we see on Twitter, Facebook, and in Zoom hangouts. If we’re being truthful, we see a lot of them within ourselves — sometimes all in the span of a single week, or day.
The Optimist: This is the person who insists that when we come out of this, we will be changed — but, at least in some key ways, for the better. That the general public might finally come to grasp the ways in which social inequality exacerbates crises and become more unified as a society. That communities will be, bittersweetly, strengthened from being coaxed into mutual cooperation.
Debbie Doomsday: The exact opposite of the Optimist, Debbie Doomsday can — and absolutely will — offer you a thoroughly cited 400-word précis on exactly how and why civilization as we know it is toast, before gently reminding you to write your will if you haven’t already. (She has.)
The “My Uncle With a Master’s Degree” Truther: A longstanding archetype of viral misinformation, this is the character who emerges from the ether to make an assured claim without any evidence, data, or even an identifiable source to back it up. Though the “Uncle with a Master’s Degree” label refers to a pair of specific — and debunked — viral Facebook posts that began to circulate in February, there are many iterations of this type. The Truther will usually attribute their information to a friend or acquaintance that’s purported to have some rare and relevant insight that’s yet to be either accessible to, or understood by, the masses. The Truther tends to appear more prominently toward the beginning of a period of crisis or uncertainty, before the general public has gotten sufficient verifiable, consistent…