There were very few benefits to online classes for students over the last year and a half. However, one such benefit was priceless — the ability to mute one’s self on Zoom in order to talk shit about classmates. Since in-person classes began at UW-Madison last Wednesday, the absence of this luxury has proved harmful for the friendships of students, as people forgot that those around them can now hear everything they say.
“I was sitting in my 1 p.m. class and it just happened,” said Matt Dunbar, a junior majoring in history. “Someone in my class made a joke about Napoleon being really short, and I found myself saying ‘he was average height for the time, dumb fuck.’ I don’t know why I said that — I didn’t even really care that he was wrong. I think that seeing real people on my laptop screen for so long has made me think that in-person classes are some kind of VR experience where everyone around me is a character in a TV show.”
Another student, Veronica Enson, has experienced the other side of this phenomenon.
“During a lecture last Thursday, I was minding my own business when I heard a voice a couple rows back mutter that the top I was wearing was not ‘age appropriate,’” said Enson. “I continue to wear my Dora the Explorer tank top, but I refuse to work with the person who said that.”
The effects of not having a real-life mute button have rippled throughout campus. For example, it is rumored that pledges for some frats and sororities are now tasked with following their upperclassmen to their classes equipped with a dish towel to stuff in their superior’s mouth if they appear as though they are about to say something particularly brutal.
Professors and TAs are also feeling the impact of the switch.
“I used to be able to put my students in breakout rooms and just vent about them until it was time to come back to the main room,” said Tim Rosenthall, a professor in the biology department. “But during the discussion section the other day, I realized that people could hear me as I pondered out loud about which students looked like they were too stupid to not drop the class. That being said, eight students in that section dropped the class by Monday, so I must’ve been right.”
However, as with Emily Brenner, some good has come out of this.
“I was scrolling through my phone before class when somebody noticed that I was reading the Badger Herald,” said Brenner. “I overheard them say ‘Oh man, she would be getting much higher quality journalism if she would just read the Daily Cardinal instead.’”
“I decided to give it a try, and now I feel like I’m way more informed and am no longer dealing with the boredom that I now really recognize is inherent to the Badger Herald’s content. It’s like the Daily Cardinal is giving me water from a brand new Yeti just out of the dishwasher, whereas the Badger Herald is trying to force feed me bacteria riddled swamp water — I just know better now,” Brenner said, with a tear of relief running down her cheek.