Quaran-Teens 2020: Changes Because of Quarantine

Quaran-Teens 2020: Changes Because of Quarantine

[The following students are high school seniors at “KTH School” taking International Baccalaureate Social and Cultural Anthropology. After their final IB exams were cancelled, they decided they would like to do an auto-ethnography of their life in coronavirus quarantine. They have collected data for three weeks (including photographs, screenshots of social media and virtual school, interviews, and personal reflections) and written anthropological analyses focused on different terms (communication, society, belonging, materiality, classification, the body, health, and conflict).]

By Orli Katz, Leila Akinwumiju, Kayla Pointer, and Ameerah Turner

Welcome to our study of quarantine through the lens of change. Change in human culture is complex and can be both adaptive and maladaptive. We have observed the effects of the Coronavirus in relation to personal, religious, family and global changes.

Personal Change

Language is a resource for shaping identity and a change in language in quarantine was also observed. For example slang such as “the Q” and “the Qtine” as well as “The Ronies” have been observed in my household. Referring to serious matters with colloquial language and abbreviation can be a possible way for human culture to cope with change. However, humor as a mechanism in human culture may create conflict as well because under trying circumstances, humor can be viewed as inappropriate and inconsiderate to those fighting the virus. Language is a set of symbols used for communication. Identity is how one sees themselves and how others see them. Language use is often seen as a resource for shaping identity. So, people online or at home choose specific language to illustrate their teen identity or any other form.

I interviewed my parents about the changes they had to make because of Covid-19. I interviewed my dad first, in the morning. My father said he was very bored and misses work. He feels weird about being quarantined when he was not even a carrier of the virus. He talked about how he feels weird not doing anything, but on the plus side he now had time to fix his truck and clean his car. He was also making plans on how to do better at work once allowed to go back. My mom on the other hand still goes to work because her job is essential to the city of Memphis (For confidentiality reasons I will not be revealing her job), so she has had to go to work every day for the past three weeks. There was someone at her job who possibly was infected so she could not go to work for that day. She was happy for the day off, but she said things changed ever since that incident. Now at work they have to wear masks inside and outside of their offices and they must stay six feet apart from others in the building. My mom said that they have a new weekly schedule where they only go to work for three days and the other two days they work from home. She said that she is happy for that arrangement because she feels safer. Every day when she gets home, she must wash her hands and change her clothes and put the dirty ones in the washer.

Family Changes

As a result of the pandemic, I’ve been able to spend more time with my family and it’s been quite enjoyable. Spending more time with my family has become increasingly more important, as maintain human connection in a small quarantine space is absolutely vital. My mother and I have been cooking meals together- specifically rice and chicken stew, seasoned steak and vegetables and English Breakfast Tea. Sunday Afternoon, around 5pm, I helped my mom prepare the steak dinner. I peeled potatoes, chopped bell peppers, stirred the food in the pan, and seasoned the steak. I also helped with clean up, making sure the surfaces were clean and garbage was thrown away.

My mom and I watched episode 1 of Netflix Documentary Don’t F**K With Cats on Tuesday around 7 o’clock. The first episode describes the life of Deanna Thompson’s internet sleuth skills and her life backstory, essentially laying the foundation for how she caught a global serial killer a year before police. Through participant observation, I observed the series itself and made casual conversation with my mom regarding life events and events happening within the series. This is a change because we would normally not have time to spend together like this.

The author takes a photo of themselves in a CCTV screen in a store; a filter says "Weekend Vibes."
Photo by author.

On Sunday, I ventured out to the grocery store Kroger with my father and brother to get essentials like bagels, milk, eggs, Pirates Booty, and a variety of other snacks. While waiting for my dad to grab something, I took a picture and added the words “Weekend Vibes” to share with others.

I’ve been going on daily walks with my family as we try to remain somewhat active throughout quarantine! Myself, my brother and my father simply walked around our neighborhood for around 45 minutes. We chatted, remarked on houses we’d never seen before and took in some fresh air.

My data collection method was participant observation, which has the advantage of including detailed emic (insider) perspective and interactions but also the disadvantages that go with remembering. My memories are personal and may not represent how the other members in my family see the events.

Changes with Friends

A screenshot of students video chatting wearing different hats; the text says "Y'all aint built like us."
Photo by author.

I’ve been making a lot of TikToks myself! I noticed that my sleep schedule has also been more dysfunctional than normal, I’ve been staying up closer to 2-3 AM. I’ve found TikToks help me maintain a sense of humor, especially since current events and Memphis in general have been seeming rather bleak. The data was collected within my bedroom in various spots. I would make some TikToks in my bathroom, as the lighting was better. Sometimes, I would make them on my bed specifically for comfort reasons. Ocassionally, I would move around for a TikTok or sit at my desk. All the TikToks were made in the wee hours of the morning (2-3 AM).

One silver lining to quarantine is I’ve been able to get to know my classmates a lot better, especially as we’re getting ready to go to college! I’ve been able to make a lot of friends that I’ll hopefully be able to see in August. We’ve been facetiming and zooming a lot! In this particular image, a friend was wearing a bucket hat and we decided to all join in! One friend didn’t have a hat, so she gleefully improvised (with a ukulele)!

Globalization and Language Change

Globalization, the continuous increasing interconnectedness of nations, cultures, economies, and politics, is crucial to understanding pandemic ethnographic data since globalization is part of what led to the pandemic. With the connection of people across countries and the rapid movement and travel, disease spreads quickly creating change in all cultures. These changes can create conflict as disease can become associated with specific cultures. Some people began falsely referring to the coronavirus as the Chinese virus. This could be considered maladaptive cultural changes.

Photo of a Zoom call with family members.
Photo taken by author on Passover during a zoom call with family across the country.

However, globalization increased through technology as a result of quarantine. For example, my family is scattered across the country; we have members in California, New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and D.C. However, on Passover we were able to celebrate as together as possible through the use of zoom, a platform that allows for group video chats. Here we can see how culture is adaptive under rapidly changing communities.

Ethics of Data Collection

The ethics that go into collecting research relate to the safety and security of the participants. Informed consent is very important because it gives the permission of participation in the collection of data. Privacy and confidentiality are a human right that could be taken away with sharing the participants information, also it could be potentially dangerous in the public safety of the participants. I obtained oral consent from my family by openly explaining the project and asking for their permission to observe and record their everyday life. In this time of coronavirus pandemic, physical ethnographic observation outside of the home can create risk. Instead, we gathered auto-ethnographic data from observing and interviewing our own friends and family at home and virtually.

In one author’s house there are small children, teens, a young adult, and two adults so there is a lot of conflict that is experienced in the house. The ethical considerations with collecting data for minors causes me as the researcher to ask for parental consent which is similar to informed consent. It is also important to protect the privacy of my family so they would be safe, so information would have to be kept confidential. One author’s observations of tik tok behavior does not include the consent of the content creators. However, they already post this content on a public platform therefore, it can be assumed they are okay with people seeing and sharing it. The danger of human culture in times of pandemic can be observed at grocery stores as it is the only essential outing that people can engage in. People are observed to wear masks, wipe down grocery carts, wear gloves and purposefully avoid one another. However, being in a public place can potentially spread the virus and create a dangerous environment at home as well. Furthermore, the danger of the situation is worse for medical workers. One author’s father is a surgeon and must face the danger of the virus each day in a hospital.

Whenever possible, we avoided covert research to protect the privacy of our participants because it affects the security of the participants as well as the involvement of illegal acts within the culture. If the researcher is participating in illegal or unethical acts, it compromises them as well as the participants of the culture being studied. All of these ethical issues importantly contribute to our ethical considerations.

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