Tracy Llanera, 35, a philosophy professor at the University of Connecticut who studies nihilism, said that this treat-forward approach is one way people are reclaiming some of the freedom and stability that has been lost since early 2020.
“In the Covid pandemic, the thing that confirms that you’re suffering from existential nihilism is the lack of control,” Ms. Llanera said.
Amid these feelings of ongoing helplessness and grief, she said, people try to find consistent and reliable pleasures.
“Something about treat culture is that you’re always regularly going to get the treat,” she added. “You can depend on that, at least. There’s a guarantee that this small little ritual that you have every week will at least satiate something in you.”