2020 Got You Down? SHOUT IT OUT
Typing in all capital letters was more than just social media venting. It created connections.
On an unremarkable Thursday this August I was jolted out of doomscrolling Facebook by a post blaring: “IT’S SHOUTY THURSDAY … HIT CAPS LOCK AND TELL ME WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND!”
I chuckled, skimmed the thread of emphatic comments, and ADDED A FEW OF MY OWN. Then, as an afterthought, I reposted the all-caps call to arms on my own Facebook page and clicked on to the next distraction.
But as it turned out, people had plenty to shout about.
I JUST WANT THIS TO BE OVER!!!
GOTTA GET THE HOUSE READY FOR THE HANDYMAN
THIS PERSON I AM WORKING WITH IS TOTALLY UNREASONABLE!!!
MY UPSTAIRS NEIGHBOR IS RENOVATING HIS BATHROOM SO ALL MY WINDOWS ARE CLOSED AND I AM HOT AND QUARANTINED AND CRANKY
I JUST MADE A CHEESE OMELET
As the day rolled on, people kept shouting. They shouted about their frustrations and fears, their joys and triumphs. Friends and friends of friends shouted back. THANK YOU FOR MAKING ME LAUGH TODAY one friend shouted. By the end of the day, the post had racked up more than 100 comments. My usual average is about 12.
Clearly there was something about speaking in all caps that captured the zeitgeist of 2020. Good or bad, people were ready to SHOUT IT OUT. By Tuesday of the next week, people were already posting that they CAN’T WAIT FOR SHOUTY THURSDAY and messaging me privately to ask if I would do it again.
When Thursday rolled around, even more people joined in.
I DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH MORE LOCKDOWN I CAN TAKE
MY 85-POUND OCTOGENARIAN, CANCER PATIENT SMOKER MOM HAS BEEN SNEAKING OUT TO THE CVS
I’M MAKING SPICY MEXICAN CHOCOLATE CRINKLE COOKIES
I SPLURGED ON NEW BIKINIS AND I AM GOING TO WEAR THEM AROUND THE HOUSE AND FEEL CUTE
EVERY DAY IS VERY LONG AND THERE ARE NO DAYS OFF
Some kind of primal urge took over and I began SHOUTING BACK. Normally I try to be restrained on social media, but the shouting flipped a switch. YASSS QUEEN, I replied to someone’s shout about tacos. YOU ARE A HERO HANG IN THERE, I cheered on the teacher shouting about her exhaustion. SRSLY WTF, I commiserated with the guy shouting that people in his neighborhood weren’t wearing masks. More than 240 comments piled up, and I read every single one.
In a year of extreme isolation, shouting on the internet with relative strangers felt strangely intimate. Every week, people would chime in to shout about everything from the inane (I HAD OATMEAL FOR BREAKFAST) to the intensely personal (MY 20 YEAR OLD IS SO ANXIOUS HE REQUESTS A COVID TEST EVERY TIME HE HAS ANY CONTACT WITH ANYONE BUT US. I’M SO WORRIED ABOUT HIM).
Even better than the shouting has been watching people make connections. An old high school teacher from Honolulu shouting back and forth with someone I met at an aikido seminar in Japan and a book editor I know on the Mainland. A college friend shouting with someone from my online freelance writers group. Maybe Shouty Thursday’s magic wasn’t about shouting at all. Maybe it was about sharing.
Four months later, Shouty Thursday is still going strong. The themes have changed as we’ve shouted our way through the California wildfires, the election and its aftermath, the national surge in COVID cases, and the stress and sadness of holidays spent far from our loved ones. And it’s growing. Friends and friends of friends have started their own weekly caps-lock comment threads.
But it no longer surprises me when someone messages me privately to say that Shouty Thursday is their favorite day of the week. After all, as my elementary school friend put it: READING OTHER PEOPLE’S SHOUTS MAKES ME FEEL SO MUCH BETTER!!!!!