Sleep, Watch, and Repeat

It was 2 a.m. Sunday and room 609 was still lit up, as were many other rooms of 1110 commonwealth avenue. Muffled sound of gunfire and epic music traveled through the door, to the hallway and wound up mixed together with other muffled sound of cheesy party music and people’s shouting at each other. Skylar Li, tenant of room 609 and a graduate student at Boston University, was watching the single player’s trailer of Battlefield One–DICE’s most ambitious game of 2016–on YouTube. This was, at least, the tenth time that he had watched the trailer and he still got goose bumps as he did the last nine times. Li rubbed his arms trying to calm down but somehow became more excited. At a time like this he would marvel at the predictions YouTube made of him; he has always been a Call of Duty fan, until roughly a month ago when this Battlefield One trailer appeared in his “videos you might like” section. As it turned out, Li was immediately converted from Call of Duty to Battlefield One.

I gotta buy that. Li thought. Did DICE pay YouTube to juxtapose this game with Call of Duty to proselytize people like me?

Behind him was muted Anderson Cooper 360 rerun on TV, a panel of six were debating vehemently over Trump’s fitness, or lack thereof, to be president. He never understood why CNN would always get people from the opposite ends of the spectrum to debate–they would never arrive at a consensus so what was the point? Why wouldn’t they invite people who were moderate and analyze politics objectively? Li looked at the top right corner of his computer monitor for time, it was 2:10 a.m., he finished another YouTube video of Steph Curry’s highlight and went to bed.

                                                                                     *

Video is a huge part of Li’s life; he wakes up every morning turning on his TV, whose remote control is conveniently on the nightstand because he would, every night, prepare himself for bed while watching TV. He watches The Daily Show with Noah Trevor, Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Last Week Tonight on YouTube at school when he arrives early for classes or work; he never watches cat videos and game videos at school because he feels people would think less of him if seen by his peers who, to be honest, may actually follow the same mantra as he does. Between classes and during lunch breaks is when Li least exposed to videos–on a school day, but he remembered vividly how a trending National Geographic video on Facebook about snakes chasing a lizard made his day at a Tuesday lunch with his friends. If not funny videos on a smartphone, occasionally the restaurant’s TV would catch his attention, too.

Coming back to his tiny studio from school, Li then truly starts his legit video consumption. The TV is always in the background unless he does his homework or reads books and newspapers. He cooks while watching TV and eats with his favorite TV shows on; even when he uses the bathroom the TV is on. Li has somehow developed a filtering regimen, which allows him to pick up any information he deems important and forgo everything else. However, the constant bombardment of “everything else” has confounded him tremendously: Why are 80 per cent of the TV commercials about drugs and all kinds of insurances? Li is now one more commercial away from knowing the Invokana ad backwards; it runs in between CNN’s regular programs EVERY SINGLE TIME. Supposedly, Invokana will cure diabetes if the patient can ignore one of the possible side effects, which according to the commercial goes, “Severe side effects may include genital yeast infection…”

Forget about diabetes and Invokana, I choose death. Li thought. Let me die with dignity.

Of some 100 channels on TV, Li almost only watches CNN and HBO. The former provides him a somewhat moderate political view and the latter grants him an asylum when politics goes one step closer toward reality show.

“For a night like no others, you need a network like no others. Why trust this night to anyone else? Election night, November 8 on CNN.” The iconic news baritone had been persuading people to tune into CNN on election night for weeks now, but Li was going to watch CNN anyway. He did give Fox News and MSNBC a chance on politics and he wished he hadn’t, for him, mental health is more important than switching between the two channels, which gave him schizophrenia. Plus, Anderson Cooper had a unique charisma that made him captive audience; although if asked to be forthright, he’d say it is Briana Keilar.

Li rushed back from work on the historical Tuesday night, grabbed a slice of pizza for dinner and started watching–in hindsight–the world crumbles. Donald J. Trump won the election to be the 45th president of the United States; Li didn’t think it was likely, but he definitely wasn’t surprised by it. Of course the polls didn’t reflect the reality. If I were a Trump supporter I wouldn’t tell anybody just to let them call me a racist or sexist or bigot. Political commentators on CNN sank into a more heated argument as hosts tried their best to remain sane.

Meanwhile, people started to vent on YouTube soon after the result. Nearly every trending video was about Trump and that was the last thing Li needed, he plunged into his bed and let go of everything. On any other day, Li would usually spend at least 30 minutes on YouTube at night before giving in to his lethargy, regardless of morning classes. This night ritual has been evolving in accordance with his likings, and recently it consisted of Steph Curry’s performance highlights and Battlefield One gameplays–most notably, sniping tutorials. Li tried to sleep skipping this ritual several times before and failed, he would have an unquenchable thirst for videos the same way kids have to listen to bedtime stories. Li woke up every morning feeling remorseful that he had slept late but would do the same thing all over again when answering his bed’s callings; he even started to wonder whether watching videos was just a symptom of having an OCD. Either way, Li had a hard time falling asleep early Wednesday morning, but who wouldn’t–in a deep blue state such as Massachusetts?

The Wednesday’s New York Times called Hillary Clinton “crestfallen,” when in fact, everybody Li saw at school was exactly that. He watched Clinton’s concession speech live streamed on CNN.com with his colleagues and several of them cried; he bumped into someone he hasn’t seen in weeks and that someone was weeping in the hallway; he went to a diner for lunch and the owner, who presumably just cried in the back of the kitchen, looked dejected and her eyes were red; he checked his Facebook updates and saw a CNN video of Clinton’s supporters crying at her campaign headquarters; he swore to Buddha he saw a golden retriever cried. Li has found a pattern, and he didn’t intend to wallow in this collective sadness. Lucky for him, his panacea for displeasure was in theater that week.

As many other millennials, Li is a huge fan of superhero movies from both Marvel and DC. The election did put a grim filter on everything and people were understandably troubled, but that filter hasn’t ruined Li’s passion toward Marvel’s new film Dr. Strange. For several days Li was, to some extent, bipolar in that he was worried whenever there was an anti-Trump protest on TV, but on the other hand, he became ecstatic every time he saw the new film’s trailer on YouTube, which also gave him goose bumps as Battlefield One’s did.

“Forget everything you think you know about this world.” The trailer said in a dramatic tone and Li quivered a bit in his chair. The movie was so brilliantly advertised, there were loop video ads on Facebook and Instagram that featured the movie’s signature special effects: Space distortion and warping objects–computer generated imagery at its peak. There even was a count-down ad for the movie on CNN that sometimes awkwardly coincided with election night countdown before November 8.

For Li, watching movies at a theater served nothing more than an excuse to leave his apartment and to have some fun with his friends because, his yearning for enjoyment had been completely disillusioned by Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and the root of all evil–Now You See Me 2, all of which were churned out in 2016. However, Dr. Strange was a surprising delight to him. As the last movie Li planned to watch this year, it restored his faith in quality and dangerously raised his bar of expectation for next year’s movies.

Back in room 609, a week has gone by when Li curled up in bed and started browsing through his YouTube homepage on smartphone, to his left was a fresh copy of Battlefield One stacked upon a spotless Play Station. He didn’t notice the time until he’d finished yet another Steph Curry’s “unreal performance”-it was 2:30 a.m. Sunday and Li mumbled, “I’m gonna regret this in the morning.” Dropping his phone in a nearby pile of clothes, Li went on to catch Z’s.

Muffled cheesy party music and people’s shouting at each other came through his door as always, but he was used to it.

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