A restored thirst for normieness is afoot. You can feel it in the air. The flowers are budding, the ice is melting, and after a year-plus of hellish chaos-tweeting, the culture is chomping at the bit for a return to our most basic, lobotomized posting instincts. It's right around the corner. I'm telling you. 2021 is a rare opportunity to regress; to fully relish the many brain cells that have vanished throughout the trauma of the Covid era. We will once again cultivate benign Instagram feeds filled exclusively with images of dainty noodle bowls. Vacation photos will provoke high-engagement and soft envy as God intended, rather than long comment threads debating viral incubation periods. The boys will take group-selfies on rooftops — wayfarers on, arms over shoulders — positively captioned with some bullshit like "#SQUAD." Taylor Swift will soon re-release Red, one of the most innately millennial, Obama-era albums of all time. I told Becca the other day that I wanted to go to Bonnaroo for Christ's sake. It was a thought that germinated deep in my limbic system shortly after the pandemic settled in, and only grew more powerful as my faculty for taste eroded away in the greying months that followed. I want nothing more to be strung out on day three of a music festival, poisoned by that diabolical blend of drunk and hangover, feeling like I'm about to die at a 3:30pm Beach House set. Offline is going to hit like a drug. I can't wait.
Do you ever think about how many posts you read in 2020? That's the only hobby I had last year: Reading posts. We all set some endearing self-improvement benchmarks early on — laughable fantasies about reading a book a week, or mastering the subtle art of the cast-iron skillet — but most of us are leaving the Covid era without much to show for it. I am definitely older, definitely fatter, and I spent a lot of time looking at my timeline even as the discourse grew psychedelic in its unhingedness. The human mind is simply not capable of subsisting in the interminable doldrums of a pandemic while simultaneously having access to all of the information in the world. Europe survived the Black Death because serfdom in the Middle Ages was already pretty dull and brutal — at the very least, living through the plague didn't also require drowning in a vortex of takes. (Medieval scholars, I greatly anticipate your emails.) But by the time the year turned over into 2021, the Posting Contingency had grown alarmingly feral. All of us made the disastrous decision to tweet through our respective Covid walls with self-destructive abandon. I have truly never been more logged on in my life, to the point where I can recount every single unhappy trend that briefly annotated the day's agenda in order. The manic energy of Online breached through the screen and soaked up all of the newly empty space in the calendar — there was no recourse, no escape, no chance to grab a drink with friends who have absolutely no idea who Bean Dad is. If you're subscribed to this newsletter, you probably need a detox too.
There are a lot of conspiracy theories floating around about the vaccines. I encountered a fresh one in my own circle earlier this week; a distant acquaintance uploading several operatic Instagram stories about the cabalistic intentions of the four BioTech firms that have jabs on the market. Like most post-Trump, closed-Facebook-group-with-300-members disinformation campaigns, they get some of the ultra-broad strokes correct. You do not need to convince me or any other discerning citizen with an $8,500 deductible that the pharmaceutical industry acts as a cruel cartel preying on the lowest rungs of our socioeconomic strata. They only get tripped up when they claim that Pfizer is secretly trying to inject you with nanomachines or whatever. Even if I bought into the conspiracy, how bad could that really be? I got my first dose of Moderna a few weeks ago, and frankly I would celebrate the news that the vaccine contains a malevolent agent designed to make me more docile and complacent — at least for a little while. There was a good tweet a while back about how an anti-premarital sex conversation is most certainly on Twitter's horizon, as the denizens of discourseland slowly cycle their way through every possible permutation of opinion regardless of whether they actually believe what they're saying. A covert, brain-smoothing inoculation endeavor might be our last hope before we arrive at the nadir. For the love of God, let us free.
I was thinking about this last weekend when I attended my first genuine, post-vax social gathering — a birthday party where I was bound to meet a handful strangers — at an outdoor patio somewhere in Gowanus. The establishment was a BBQ joint in the Dave Portnoy tradition. You could buy a $20 bottle of rosé at the bar, a T-shirt that reads, "RUB IT HARD," and the host somehow felt the need to atone by explaining that this wasn't their typical aesthetic choice before the pandemic. No man! Those hedging days are over! In the months ahead I don't want to see anyone soaking their base, amiable, id-driven desires — like spending twelve bucks on a beer-and-a-shot combo named after a Dumb & Dumber quote — with a sheepish, internet-derived irony. You have categorically earned this, and anyone who arrives at their first joyously chaotic Saturday night prepared to workshop some sniveling Twitter jokes has clearly not absorbed the lessons of the last [REDACTED] months. If you do not take advantage of this long, long delayed chance to finally elude the panoptics of Online for a little while, then I simply can't hang out with you, and you're not invited to the housewarming party.
I think the Offline High will last exactly ten weeks. Ideally, the American vaccination efforts won't slow down, and by July we'll all be crossing off our various post-pandemic debauchery resolutions one by one. (For me that includes enthusiastically attending some weddings, turning 30, and floating facedown in the Prospect Park Lake like Ophelia in Hamlet.) But inevitably, the posting norms of 2019, 2018, and 2017 will slip back into our biological tendencies — where we were all still perpetually annoyed online, but did not yet understand how good we had it. So please, I'm begging you, fully lean into the euphoria ahead. Purge the discourse from your body. Post that deadlift max on Instagram. Let your phone die at the first stop of the night. We'll only have it for a moment.
Also, sorry I haven't been writing these as much! Even my mom was like, "I haven't seen your newsletter lately" during one of our pandemic check-ins, which is a truly devastating comment from the family. I have a rule where if I sell an On Posting idea as a pitch, then the paid work always takes priority. Case in point: I was going to do a piece about the person who writes the Twitter trending captions on here, but Slate swooped in before I could log into Substack. So consider those pieces honorary On Postings, and hopefully I'll be back in your inbox soon.