Rebel Seniors, Teens Falling Asleep in Class and Digital “pans and pots protests”
Author: Ximena Díaz Alarcón, current PhD Candidate in Sociology (UCA – Universidad Católica Argentina). You can contact her at email@example.com.
Field site: In strict lockdown in Buenos Aires, Argentina, connecting with informants via Whatsapp via mobile phone. Informants are 45 + years old women of middle-upper socioeconomic levels living in Buenos Aires.
In Argentina, we are going through the 45th day of lockdown and being in “full-face-mask-mode”. In this lockdown, different responses from two ends of the life stage spectrum grabbed my attention: teens and seniors.
On the one hand, teens (and kids) have had to adjust to online classes due to quarantine restrictions and after a couple of weeks of being in a virtual classroom, Zoom-bombing scares and intense “wi-fi wars” at home (where parents fight for wi-fi to work while youngsters use it to study), they seem to be trying to build up new routines. But the strong migration to full online-life caused by the quarantine is not necessarily easier for younger people.
Teens -or at least some of them- certainly seem to manage digital devices in a more “fluent” way than other generations do, but being “digitally fluent” does not “inoculate them” (to use a topical, vaccine-related metaphor) against fear and tension in the midst of the pandemic.
In different interviews I held with them over the last couple of days, they expressed the fear of missing parties and fun, as well as missing face-to-face contact and flirting. They also fear they won’t be able to have all the experiences we adults have already had if a vaccine against Covid- 19 is not found soon. “You have to understand – a 14-year-old teenage girl told me- you as an adult might miss something from the “real world”, but I least, you have ALREADY LIVED!”.
Maybe that’s why girls still put makeup on and giggle and laugh out loud in Zoom parties, and boys and girls stand up and dance alone in their rooms with the music blasting. They seem to be trying to emulate all the embodied emotions of meeting in person as much as they can while having to connect online.
Besides all the “real life” elements teens seem to be missing, they also comment on the fear of not ”really learning” via online classes, mention that connection gets lost in streaming and that crowded classes made it harder to participate. Some parents are also expressing concerns about that and some even feel it’s “unfair to pay the same school fee” during these times since they consider classes to be less structured and teachers seem to struggle to grab kid’s attention. At the same time, teachers are concerned about their own struggles to keep up and the extra hours spent (not necessarily paid!) to transform their usual classes into virtual ones.
A case of extreme boredom made the news a couple of weeks ago when a student literally fell asleep during class and started snoring online. Jokingly, the teacher said that he had many a student falling asleep in his classes before, but never snoring in their own beds! (as it was the case with the teen that made the news).
In the midst of this debate, an 83-year-old woman took matters into her own hands and went sunbathing in a public park, ignoring the lockdown. Police officials had to drag her out while she explained that beyond lockdown limitations, she ” needs to sunbathe due to health-related reasons”. This case also made the news and sparked a public discussion about individual freedom versus state control.
In terms of more general “responses” in Argentina, both ‘analogue’ and digital reactions were displayed.
A few days before lockdown and in imitation of the applauses and recognition that Spanish citizens dedicated to their health professionals, Argentinians also started to clap on their terraces and balconies at 9 pm, each night, to celebrate their own health professionals.
This ”social date” coincided with demands from the health sector to have more and better materials to protect them in the fight against the virus. Some arguments were made regarding the need for practical and material recognition for doctors and nurses, rather than symbolic recognition such as “clapping”.
The fact that in some buildings, doctors and nurses were asked by their neighbours to leave their own homes for fear of contagion was publicly denounced. So much so, that INADI (the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism), had to issue a statement asking the public not to discriminate against doctors.
Again, social media and Whatsapp were the media through which this was organised en masse in the whole country and some memes about the protest started circulating, repurposing the “stay at home” government campaign with a play on words that means “stay in jail”.
Argentinian creativity kept flourishing amid the pandemic, as expressed by a tip an informant shared with me: the “Cacerolazo app”, an application that emulates the sound of pots and pans being banged without having to actually beat your kitchenware. She told me it was a Chilean app created during the last episodes of social unrest in Chile and that she recommended it to me. After all “it is better to go onto the balcony and protest digitally, so you don’t ruin your pots and pans. God knows we have to keep them safe. We are all doing more home cooking during quarantine!”