This morning, on what feels like the millionth day of the coronavirus lockdown, people awoke to discover friends and acquaintances sharing photos of themselves at age 20. On Monday, Twitter user @202natt posited: “Lmaooo what did y’all look like at 20?” And it would appear that people were eager to answer.
Interestingly, it seems like the meme’s creator was 20 just two years ago. On Twitter, she noted how far her makeup skills have come since then. But for a lot of folks, age 20 is a distant memory.
Part of the appeal of the meme is the goofy nature of dredging up photos of yourself from a different era. Look at the outdated fashion and that awful haircut! It’s a way of feeling better about your current look, especially since there’s no telling when any of us may next see the inside of a salon.
The meme is the internet equivalent of spending empty days thumbing through photo albums at your parents house. An escape to a simpler time. Even if age 20 seems embarrassing, at least it was before COVID-19 put the world on lockdown.
One nice aspect of the meme is that it's a chance to celebrate personal metamorphoses. One maybe not-so-nice aspect is its similarity to the 2009 vs. 2019 profile picture trend that swept Facebook last year. Critics argued that such "harmless fun" may or may not have been a data collection ruse to train Facebook's facial recognition algorithm.
The "me at 20" trend seems far too organic in origin for it to be a sneaky affront on our privacy orchestrated by Jack Dorsey. It's most likely a harmless side-effect of our collective boredom.
After all, the internet is the only thing keeping folks connected in this time of social disconnect. The emergence of such a forthright trend on social media means we’ve reached the hopeless nostalgia phase of the coronavirus pandemic. People are desperate for diversion and normalcy, and sharing photos of our younger selves is a nice way to remember that life existed before all of this.