UBC Sociology’s Distinguished Speaker Series hosts Dr. Ezra Zuckerman Sivan (MIT) for a talk titled, “What Day is It and Who Cares about the Date? Social Media Expressions of Temporal Disorientation Before and After Pandemic Onset.”
This paper exploits the natural experiment represented by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to illuminate how institutionalized social rhythms provide a foundation for the lives of contemporary Americans. We find that public expressions of temporal disorientation on the social media platform Twitter rose sharply in response to the experience of mass quarantine and that such disorientation was most commonly articulated in terms of a quest for social validation for a sense of confusion as to the day of the week (“What day is it?”). We also find the experience of unhappiness and temporal disorientation at the onset of the pandemic overwhelmed the contrast between the weekend and weekday that is evident both before and after the pandemic onset. Finally, we identify a telling contrast between the pandemic-onset and the key political moments of early 2021 (the Capitol Insurrection and the inauguration of President Biden), which were experienced as moments of “historic” transition rather than rhythmic disorientation.