Elamin Abdelmahmoud: “Amil Niazi’s March 2022 essay went immediately viral because it put into words what many have been feeling: that the pandemic marks a shift in our relationship with measuring our lives by ambition and accomplishment. What does it look like when large swaths of the workforce suddenly stop organizing themselves around the pressure to move ahead? Niazi was ahead of the curve on this question, but it’s becoming more pertinent now.”
The stories people save to Pocket reveal something unique—not only about what’s occupying our collective attention, but also about what we aspire to be. This year, our data showed a few key themes, as well as some hints at what stories might continue to hold our attention in the years ahead. To further explore and estimate which topics will remain top of mind, we asked Elamin Abdelmahmoud, the culture writer behind the prescient March 2022 feature What You’re Feeling Isn’t A Vibe Shift. It’s Permanent Change, to peek into his crystal ball and see which stories will remain on our minds. Here, Abdelmahmoud—also a podcast host and the author of Son of Elsewhere, one of The New York Times’ Notable Books of 2022—takes us through his predictions, from what’s next for COVID, climate change, and… Wife Guys. —Pocket team
The biggest shock of 2022 was how much happened this year—it’s easy to forget all of it. Way back in February, a study came out saying that the megadrought in America’s southwest was so severe it was the worst drought in 12 centuries—that’s back to the year 800. I read that and then completely moved on. Like, ok, that sounds fine, that seems like a regular problem, let’s move on. Do you remember that we are still existing in the same year Boris Johnson resigned and then a different Prime Minister took office and resigned? That was this year. I had to be reminded that the Queen died in 2022: that’s how much this year has drowned us in information and things to process.
A lot of these stories lived rent free in our heads this year—that’s a useful frame for making sense of the world now and looking at what will be foundational in what happens next. For this collection, I looked for clarifying stories, the ones that serve almost as a key code for understanding 2022 and therefore understanding what might come in 2023. Some of these are hyper local but easily universalizable—for instance, the heatwave-charged inequality in Toronto this year will sadly, surely repeat across the world. Meanwhile, some of the stories are fun, which I didn’t anticipate! I’m eager to see how the Wife Guy trope continues to rattle around. And then there’s the story about ambition by Amil Niazi. So many people changed their approach to accomplishment this year: will people have the same relationship with work in 2023? What will that look like?
It was fun curating this list for Pocket—an app I have used and loved for years—and I look forward to returning at the end of 2023 to see how right I was about these predictions. Then again, who knows what my relationship to work will be by then? —Elamin Abdelmahmoud
EA: “I’ve been thinking about Michelle Cyca’s piece for months now. It’s an investigation into what happens when an instructor tries to claim Indigenous identity and that claim is challenged, but Cyca’s writing is really clear-eyed about the stakes of these kinds of claims and how to handle them. The next time you encounter a story about someone’s Indigenous or Native identity coming under question, refer back to this piece.”
EA: “A gentle reminder that the superrich exist in a different universe than the rest of us. Sometimes that universe entails driving nice cars. Sometimes that universe means they’re so rich that they start preparing secret underground bunkers for after ‘The Event.’ You know The Event, don’t you? The impending social collapse! What’s your plan for after The Event?”
EA: “It is a horrendous reality that meaningful conversations about gun laws in America are always reactive, always in response to an awful and infuriating shooting. This piece lays out intelligently why the next battle over gun laws is not a matter of whether Americans can carry guns, but just how many places they’ll be allowed to do so.”
EA: “The downtown core of your city likely still doesn’t resemble what it looked like pre-pandemic. The foot traffic is down and a lot more people are working from home. If workers expect to be able to work from home at least some of the time, how can workplaces bring workers back? Here’s a good start.”
EA: “What is the appeal of the far right and why has it become such a dominant force globally, regardless of country? Political scientist Pippa Norris lays out the clearest argument I have ever heard for The Ezra Klein Show for how this came to be. Her explanation of a ‘silent revolution in cultural values’ will blow your mind, and once you see it, you can’t unsee it.”
EA: “It’s easy for this to slip under the radar, but 2022 has been a remarkable year for the roaring of unions. The common narrative is that unions are losing relevance as memberships have been declining for decades. The reality is that workers have been organizing at a pace not seen since the Great Depression. Anne Helen Petersen’s conversation with Kim Kelly, the author of Fight Like Hell, is great for debunking some of the tired myths about the labor movement, and it’ll be a useful guide as this wave of unionizations continues.”
EA: “This a big deal: researchers who have been in the trenches trying to solve Diabetes have arrived at a pointed conclusion—there is no drug, or device, or treatment for Diabetes powerful enough to undo the impact of poverty, unwalkable communities, poor access to food, stress, and pollution. How, if at all, legislation shifts to address this conclusion remains unclear.”
EA: “Here’s one thing you might have observed in the world: when your city goes through a heatwave, the impact isn’t distributed evenly across neighborhoods. Some suffer much more than others. In this startling feature, The Local illustrates how a heat wave exacerbates inequality and how its consequences can be deadly.”
EA: “2022 forced the retirement of the Wife Guy. Between the Try Guy and the Maroon 5 guy, we don’t know what to do with the Wife Guy. In theory, the scales have fallen from our eyes and we are done with the trope. Realistically, there are a number of Wife Guys still trying to maintain that status. When they fall, too, I will return to this piece.”
EA: “I look at my friends who have never had COVID like they’re members of a far superior species: apparently I am not the only one. Scientists are trying to determine whether the folks who have never had COVID hold the secret for a solution to the pandemic. Check back in 2023 to see if my friends have solved everything.”
Elamin Abdelmahmoud is a senior culture writer for BuzzFeed News, host of CBC’s pop culture show Pop Chat, and author of the national bestseller Son of Elsewhere. He was a founding co-host of the CBC Politics podcast Party Lines, and he is a contributor to The National’s At Issue panel. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The Globe and Mail, and others. When he gets a chance, he writes bad tweets.