Everything In Its Place: The Internet Is Diagramming Our Anxiety

By Whitney Kimball on at

Memes’ basic function is to identify where we stand in relation to the world, and according to the largest-followed meme accounts, a significant portion of the population is currently relating to quarantine fatigue in the six faces of Kanye, Khaleesi smoking a cigarette, cats hanging out windows, a shopping cart full of wine, and Ben Affleck. That’s the “ME RN” crowd, and we talked about them last week. But another contingent dissects anxiety and maps out our isolation-rattled psyche with quieter reflection. This is what artful cartographers and illustrators do best, and mass solitude has added new dimensions to existing oeuvres charting solitude and anxiety, with contemplation on the new trappings of the fortunate (canned goods, roommates, health), or on the absurdity of trying to make sense of it all.

It’s a weird time to be an analyst, as charts informed by CDC and World Health Organization data flood our Twitter feeds with peaks towering above ever-lengthening axes, sparking feuds over misinformation and responsible correlations (this is not the Spanish flu). Artists’ shaky hand-drawn lines and layperson Photoshop jobs are a relief. Plus, they’re funny.

Artist Liana Finck, who masterfully dissects the minutiae of everyday conduct, has made a quiet portrait of angst.


Image: Instagram/mattsurelee

Perhaps you’re embracing newfound delight in interior design (would the room feel bigger if you moved all the couches around?) or reconsidering jam (alone, in a spoonful, as a snack), or finally making it all the way down to the bottom of the stack of yellowed magazines you can’t throw away because they’re important (the New Yorker). Maybe you’re working harder than ever! Maybe you have all the time in the world.

Matt Shirley has updated his original March 2020 calendar, which had predicted that this month would be spent gleefully anticipating drinking outside. His new schedule, for freaking the fuck out, went into effect Thursday. Shirley has also neatly summarized new information and a bingo card you can use. Watch Contagion: check.

 Image: Instagram/mattsurelee

Image: Instagram/mattsurelee


Image: quintesentialy on Reddit

Here’s the Dungeons and Dragons alignment system–an ethical matrix on which all characters can be placed–as applied to a courtesy guide on stockpiling, thanks to Reddit user quintesentialy. The “lawful” to “chaotic” axis describes the adherence to the rule of law, so in this scenario, Han Solo (chaotic good) would be buying up the laundry detergent; Darth Vader (arguably lawful evil) would be swiping the chapstick; Boba Fett (neutral evil) takes the fancy perishable yoghurt. Jabba the Hutt has been characterized as neutral evil, but he seems more like a pallet of toilet paper kind of guy.


Illustration: Charles472/reddit

Reddit’s imaginary maps community demands a designer’s professionalism and historical rigour (you’d better know your Habsburg history at minimum before jumping into the comments), and alternative timeline maps often explore the hypothetical outcomes of colonialism and fractured federal governments. This typically looks like a trajectory in which Delaware becomes “New Sweden” thanks to a 17th-century truce between Sweden and Denmark. In the case of covid-19, Charles472 wonders what might happen if, amidst a quarantine-induced recession and a particularly divisive Sanders-Trump showdown results in riots, and Trump suspends the election and fuels the bloodiest conflict in modern history. The lore is, as Imaginary Maps goes, highly realist:

“America only awoke to the danger when at the Second Presidential Debate Trump, when asked what he planned to do to quell the violence responded with: ‘I think it’s obvious people are afraid, and their acting like it. I’ve spoken with many of the wonderful people from both sides, and they’ve told me they’re fighting for their rights. They say America isn’t ready for socialism. So, I think the natural reaction is to postpone the election until America is ready, or the Democrats can produce an electable candidate.’”

Also, a virus leads the Australian people to fracture into warring cliques, and an invasion of Italy leads to a new state called “Jesus Land.”

Being a discerning bunch, though, commenters have cautioned against alarmism.


Image: GlitterPlatypus, Reddit

An image that’s circulated around medical presentations has made its way to Reddit’s Cool Charts forum, where it takes on a second life as an aesthetic piece. The UK’s Royal College of Nursing supports this as data. But it’s also a Cool Chart.

Featured image: dooladooladoo