Hindsight is 2020, here's to a better 2021

'As the year of trials and tribulations was put behind us, the world entered 2021 with eyes open to disaster rather than being blissfully aware of the unknown.'

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.

The global tensions and subsequent World War III memes during the beginning of last year seem to pale in comparison to the pandemic and racial justice movements we saw by the end of it. 

And history seems to be repeating itself with low hopes and high fear, after this month’s insurrection and whisperings of a second civil war on social media. 

However, as seen in the sequence of last year, not everything can be predicted.

In 2020, the tone of the year was originally molded in a humorous way — the slight anxiety and lack of understanding as to what the world was experiencing led to a wave of memes and banter to cope and form community. 

The “it can’t get much worse” mindset sunk in early on when global tensions arose in response to the assassination of Qassim Suleimani.

As the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic set in, the original impending doom of warfare quickly faded out of the spotlight, as did the comical approach to the coming year. 

With racial justice movements, wildfires, and notable deaths to follow, coping morphed from denial and humor to acceptance and community, albeit virtual.

With these occurrences affecting the world month after month, social media shifted from a network of jokes of disaster to a platform for learning and information, especially in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

This transition on social media allowed memes to turn into infographics and furthered the spreading of resources, proving that virtual communities can blossom in an unprecedented time. 

Switching to a tone of realism on social media, which is so commonly known for escapism, allowed us to conform to the unknown — a concept that could hardly be perceived last January. 

As the year of trials and tribulations was put behind us, the world entered 2021 with eyes open to disaster, rather than being blissfully aware of the unknown. 

The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by alt-right rioters proved to be yet another disaster in the framework of the new decade, continuing the pessimistic narrative of humanity being on the brink of collapse.

For a society now hardwired with bad news, hearing references to a second civil war on social media was no surprise. In fact, it simply put itself parallel to the beginning of last year, leaving little room for celebration of the new year. 

After experiencing twelve months of turmoil, it’s difficult to regain the positivity that existed before living through a pandemic and an increasingly polarized political sphere. 

Although the events of 2020 seemed unusually unpredictable, we shouldn't expect 2021 to be the same as its predecessor.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is still omnipresent, we've made major strides toward a vaccine many health care workers have already received. 

Health professionals are making promises of a better tomorrow, fostering an environment of hope where few thought it could grow.

In terms of political and racial justice movements, 2021 seems to garner more hope with the inauguration of Joe Biden, a president committed to a platform of unity and moving forward as one country

The inauguration of Kamala Harris as the first woman, Black woman, and South Asian woman vice president, as well as the victory of Delaware state senator Sarah McBride — the country's first transgender state senator — among others, set a precedent for increased representation of minorities in government. 

Throughout history, the past has been our best source of knowledge, helping us learn from experience. Our expectations of this year should reflect the idea that nothing is as it seems, rather than the idea that nothing can change. 

In the same way 2020 started with no expectations for the future — good or bad — we should enter 2021 with open minds. A negative first impression is almost never a perfect understanding of what the future holds.

If World War III memes can’t predict a pandemic, an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol can’t predict the months to come. 


Reach the reporter at jecote@asu.edu and follow @jillianecote on Twitter. 

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