If there’s any upside to the global quarantining and social distancing that’s going on due to the coronavirus, it’s the fact that certain professionals all over the world are discovering new skills and hobbies while temporarily prevented from doing their usual jobs. Tim Tiller, a security guard at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, recently became something of an overnight celebrity due to the fact that the museum he works in was closed down to the public. In the absence of having his usual duties to do, Tiller took over the museum’s social media accounts, and almost instantly racked up huge stats with his folksy witticisms and endearingly self-conscious messages to cowboy fans all over the world.
There’s a certain alchemy to this kind of content. Tiller’s dad jokes, accompanied by his genuinely deep knowledge of cowboy culture and images of delightfully banal yeehaw aesthetics, all add up to pure gold and positivity. On Twitter, Tim has been signing off every tweet with his name; this is a classic indication that someone not generally familiar with social media is attempting to get the hang of things.
On Instagram, meanwhile, Tim has been poking fun at himself while simultaneously keeping readers informed with genuinely interesting facts about historical artifacts.
The flip side of delightful content like this is the dark underbelly of the American museum world: all across the country, museums are laying off part time employees who don’t have the luxury of being able to pivot to social media work like Tiller can. While there’s nothing wrong with being delighted by cowboy-themed dad posts on Instagram and Twitter, it’s necessary to keep paying attention to laborers who’re finding themselves without income during the coronavirus crisis. After this is all over, some people will be able to go back to work, but many others won’t be able to for a number of different reasons. Those circumstances can’t be easily laughed away.