By Sky Luna Eda Serafica

Different generations have different ways of coping with being stuck indoors. I say “stuck” because in all those Qs (quarantine), ECQ, MECQ, GCQ and the next MGCQ, in the Philippines, there are two generations that cannot go out. These are the oldest and the youngest, below 19 years old and above 59.

I call us, the QuaranTEENS.   

Older generations like my grandma who is 76, find themselves bored out of their minds. From cleaning and gardening, she had multiple attempts to cure her growing cabin fever. My grandpa, same age, is part of the small percentage of somewhat more tech-savvy seniors. He uses the internet to search for all kinds of crazy things and topics. While he does have Facebook (FB), it wasn’t much used during the quarantine because well, he forgot his password.    

In March when we were first learning what this coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was all about, my grandpa would spray everyone with diluted Zonrox as if we were all bugs, and the spray was COVID repellant. He was (and still is) incredibly paranoid when it comes to cleanliness, but not when it comes to his own research. So far, he’s tried hundreds of different theories and ideas that he’s seen on the internet, anything from apple cider vinegar and baking soda mixtures to consuming cut-up leaves from our Neem tree. It seems that he’s tried every possible ingredient in our house in some way.

The younger generations gravitated towards social media and technology-based activities to pass the time. But is that really all the younger generations have been doing? Mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or Tiktok? Many teens debunked this assumption. 

Younger generations tend to look for something to keep themselves productive, such as taking free online classes on an assortment of topics, and trying out new hobbies that they previously didn’t have the time for. This is not to say that we do not indulge in the occasional K-dramas and fantasy novels from time to time, of course. Believe it or not, members of “Generation Z” (people aged 5-25 is how it’s categorized at the moment) do not just use their phones and gadgets to access social media or play games.  

Photo: Rafaela Serafica’s Facebook account

“Since I cannot physically attend protests, I have been releasing all my anger and frustration towards the government by being vocal on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram,” says Rafaela Serafica. This speaks volumes about what people from Gen Z are actually seeing, hearing and doing.

Rafaela or Fae, an 18-year old student from St. Scholastica, a school known for encouraging its students to take important stands on social and political issues, uses her virtual voice to help share and spread awareness about injustices happening around the world. Her anger at the government, brought about by the Anti-Terror Bill and by the never-ending onslaught of COVID-related problems in the country has taken the form of a “Suibian” sword forged in the fire of her wrath. And like Wei Wuxian in the Chinese drama, “Mo Dao Zu Shi,” Fae is armed with her sword and the power of the internet, to call for justice for the innocent.

Social media has been given a bad rep because it is seen to distract not just young people but everybody, and spread false information. This is not always true. It can be used to spread awareness on topics and events that need urgent attention. People can educate themselves by reading and sharing articles, as well as signing petitions to help speak up when they see something that needs to be changed. 

On Twitter, there is a specific community of people who talk and tweet about their favorite K-pop idols, known as “stan twitter.” The community is massive and global. By using their numbers, they have helped share petitions and articles to help enact change. Whenever there is a trending hashtag that is harmful or misleading, they spam it with videos and photos which pushes the misleading content down and makes it impossible to find. 

Most people think that when a tweet or a hashtag is trending, it is because it is backed by many supporters. That is not always the case. Sure, a hashtag or tweet can be pushed up the ranking by paid trolls and social media followers who got misinformed.

But this is not how we, QuaranTEENS party.

#YesToAntiTerrorBill and #IStandWithThePresident are the hashtags used by followers of Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte to push for the controversial Anti-Terror Bill and show their support to the president. When those hashtags were trending worldwide, people thought it was because they had majority supporters.  It was because stan twitter flooded the hashtags with videos called “fancams,” which are videos taken by fans during live performances of their favorite K-pop groups. This caused the hashtags to be overrun with irrelevant content which made it impossible to find anything actually related to the hashtag.

Illustration by Sian Calypso Crowley, a teen from Finland

Black Lives Matter is a movement dedicated to protesting police brutality against POC (you can google that). On May 25 this year, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on top of Floyd’s neck while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down, begging for his life and repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe.”

George Floyd’s death was just the tip of the iceberg that caused people across the world to speak out and spark protests. The iconic hacktivist group, Anonymous, hacked The City of Minneapolis webpage and the Minneapolis police department’s website and released the emails and passwords of over 800 police officers. The webpages of these groups were also reported to have gone offline. When these emails and password were released, the stan twitter community spammed them with facecam after facecam, which forced the police to take drastic measures to reinforce their security.

Before US President Donald Trump was set to speak for his re-election rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 20, many Tiktok users and the stan community all over the country had a plan. It quickly went viral. The plan was to reserve millions of tickets but not actually show up. Supporters of President Trump even tweeted that they had more than 800,000 reserved seats since the rally was announced as the biggest indoor gathering at the BOK Center. Because of the stans and Tiktok users, there were many, many, many empty seats. Generation Z didn’t just make their tweets protest but they also saved lives because the government wanted to hold the mass gathering though many warned that it might increase COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma.   

Artwork by @vidadmisa on Instagram

Alexa Sinnung is a 15-year-old with a stan account and like many others, she doesn’t only use it for gushing about her faves. Thanks to the sheer size of the community, she and others use it to spread and raise awareness about social and political issues. She has also used social media to keep herself informed and updated about news such as the Anti-Terror Bill, Black Lives Matter, and the Oust Duterte movement.

Alexa says, “I listen to the news! And then after that I go on social media to see what people have to say about certain situations, especially since sometimes new information can be brought up and not be broadcast on the news, but of course I do my best to verify any information I find through research before saying anything about it.” She says news shown on TV is not always reliable. It is important to verify news before fully believing it or speaking out about it. 

Artwork by @vidadmisa on Instagram

But with the ease of spreading news and information also comes the ease of also avoiding news altogether. Recently, the news hasn’t been the most pleasant. People also get tired of reading about the unexpected announcements and statements from authority figures. Why browse through depressing articles on death and violence when you can play games or laugh at memes and take your mind off real life events?

Being cooped up can also be a mental health threat to many kids who need constant interaction and routine in their lives or even physical threats as well for kids who don’t have the best life at home. Fae says, “I have been trying to remain as productive as I can to maintain my sanity. Taking online classes, strangely indulging in Chloe Ting workouts, and binge-watching Korean dramas until the crack of dawn.”

When those hashtags trended worldwide, people thought it was because they had majority supporters.  It was because stans flooded the hashtags with “fancams.” This caused the hashtags to be overrun with irrelevant content and made it impossible to find anything actually related to the hashtag.”

I also use social media to talk to my dad and see what he’s up to since he is away in the Cordillera because he works there. Although he is not active on Twitter, he does have FB and posts pictures about giving food packages and then fetching the poor students who were stranded outside Ifugao. Through FB, he also reminds everyone who goes in town from the hotspots that they will be quarantined.     

While it is important to stay updated on current happenings, taking breaks is still a must. Relaxing and allowing yourself to have a good time whether online or off, is vital in maintaining good mental and physical health.

My IRL (in real life if you don’t know this yet) friends who are also my online friends tell each other, don’t forget to take care of yourself even if you’re stuck at home. We talk, play with our pets or try a new hobby that doesn’t involve being online! The possibilities are endless.

“I’m a person who really likes musicals, so I’ve just been introducing myself to musicals that deal with those kinds of issues or have something relevant to say about it,” Alexa says that for her personally, musicals are a good way to think about these kinds of issues without mentally stressing herself too much.

Artwork by @popper_doodles on Instagram

In America, news stations do not always show the whole truth, or they manipulate it in a way that forces innocent people into the line of fire. Fae also says that, “As someone who rarely watches television, I heavily rely on news updates posted on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and the like.”

Social media is incredibly helpful in sharing and reading about information that would not normally be shown on TV, but double checking everything before you believe it is important. Remember “think before you click”? Making sure you’re reading from a secure and official source, verifying images and graphs by doing a reverse image search, and always remaining skeptical of information before speaking out about it are just a few ways of making sure false information isn’t circulated.

Older generations tend to trust the news a little too much without researching for themselves to see if it is accurate. Many older people are also not tech-savvy, meaning there is a possibility that they are completely unaware of what is going on or simply believe whatever other people tell them. 

Photo: Sky Serafica

My grandma has no access to information aside from the news on cable. She has FB, but she doesn’t really have a clue how to access it and asks my mom or me to open it for her so she can view pictures of this wedding and that birthday. She gets people’s views from the parlor or from her suki (vendors) in the neighborhood talipapa (small wet market) but with the lockdown, she sometimes has no idea what’s going on outside our house.

Many of the older generations are on a similar boat, not tech-savvy and having to rely on other people for information. My mom used the video of George Floyd’s arrest for my grandma to understand why people were shown rallying in the news, and art cards to show her how COVID-19 is transmitted. My grandma is also not very mindful with hygiene such as washing her hands, wearing her mask, and other covid-related precautions, which has caused my mom and grandpa to frantically run after her to make sure she stays safe.

My IRL (in real life if you don’t know this yet) friends who are also my online friends tell each other, don’t forget to take care of yourself even if you’re stuck at home.”

My grandpa, on the other hand, has read much about COVID-19 and has gotten a little bit too paranoid when it comes to hygiene. The smell of Zonrox has embedded itself into my nose with the amount of times he sprays the air around the house which has thankfully stopped when we told him it wasn’t very safe. However, like my grandma, he doesn’t really pay too much attention to the news, preferring to lose himself in the world of watermelons hitting zombies on the head.  

Whether you’re 19 or 90, we all have to figure out a way to cope with the Qs. WWW

*Banner image artwork by @popper_doodles on Instagram. Most of the artworks are made by Gen Z girls

About the author:

Sky is a teen who likes to read and write fan fiction, and maintains an online writing platform in Archive Of Our Own. She is fond of gaming, and has to be bribed by her mum with pizza to do outdoor activities. She is also a budding feminist.