For someone who loves being outdoors, the coronavirus pandemic brought home my worst nightmare and so I let it all out in a tedious monologue to my roommate on the first day of quarantine.
Cut to a week later, I was on a three-hour-long call with my school and college friends on Google Hangouts. It was an outpour of anxiety, laughter, gloom, hope, friendship and love in a bonding session that has otherwise become rare. Ironically, our time in physical isolation has brought us together like never before.
More and more people are beating the physical isolation by communicating and “hanging” out with each other over platforms like WhatsApp, Skype, Google Hangouts, Signal, and Zoom.
Although devastating, the coronavirus pandemic is turning out to be a much-needed reset button. World over, people are taking the time out to communicate more with their friends and families through chat apps and social media sites, even as people with office jobs continue to work from home. It has reminded us of the importance of communicating and connecting, especially in these uncertain times.
I just had a 'virtual' hangout with some of my friends also in LA, and it turned my mental health around by 100%. Connect. Connect. Connect. Even a quick Facetime call can mean all the difference ❤️ #CALockdown pic.twitter.com/Xn7Jy3UOZp
— Elizabeth Cox (@ElizabethCoxPR) March 20, 2020
The New York Times’ podcast The Daily aptly called it ‘Alone Together‘
The role of technology
The 1990s had heralded globalisation and the Internet, creating hopes that countries and populations will come closer. If there’s something that this pandemic has shown, it’s that countries are more connected now, though not in the manner people had hoped. We are far away from utopia, but much closer to a dystopic world.
The world has become increasingly polarised since the 2008 financial crisis, which paved the way for a fresh rise of Right-wing governments in several countries. And technology only added fuel to the fire. What was supposed to be an adhesive binding varied cultures and populations became a hostile playground. The phenomenon of fake news took over on a mass scale, and a series of controversies, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal, revealed the divisive and manipulative nature of social media.
Strangely, since the pandemic hit, I’ve felt a little more trustful of social media. The virtual world has reinstated the notion that although we might be isolated and quarantined, we are not alone.
Everyone during quarantine:
Eating, sleeping, resting, work from home. pic.twitter.com/WFyg5Hu4q9
— jha_baby_08 (@manmouji_ladki) March 24, 2020
Posts like these had me guffawing about the unprecedented situation we are in. Clearly, it isn’t all that bad.
The many virtual hangouts
From church mass to happy hours, people everywhere are finding ways to socialise — while maintaining a distance.
— Valerio De Cesaris (@ValerioDeC) March 17, 2020
As places of worship shut their doors in the wake of the crisis, other doors opened up in the virtual world. Churches across the UK are delivering Sunday services through social media platforms like Facebook and audio platforms like BBC radio.
In Mumbai, the priest-in-charge of St. Jude’s Church is also live streaming and uploading videos of his services on Facebook. Interestingly, orthodox Jews, for whom technology is a sticking point around the time of Shabbat, have taken to Zoom calls. The international association of Conservative rabbis, the Rabbinical Assembly, stated in its guidelines that the call should either be activated by a non-Jew or before as logging in on Shabbat is a “problematic practice”.
Just like faith found a way, so did friendship and love.
Jacky Simmers, a liquor-brand owner, held a “virtual cocktail hour” with about a 100 people.
You don’t go to bars for the alcohol.
You go for the social interaction. You go back for the bartenders. Anyone can drink at home.
Well now that everyone IS drinking at home, let’s kill one bird with two stones.
You still want social interaction, right?
— Jackie Summers (@jackfrombkln) March 16, 2020
Gaming sites also witnessed a spike in the number of users since the quarantine took effect. The voice-app Discord, which gamers use to talk to each other while playing online, said that there was a 200 per cent increase in sign-ups. And if that wasn’t enough, a couple in Mexico got married and broadcast the wedding to 300 guests sitting at their homes.
It is amply evident. Now that our freedoms have been curtailed, it’s become more essential than ever to play, laugh, sing and have fun — but from a distance. Although I hope that this lasts in a world without a pandemic, I am certain that once this blows over, we will go back to our self-concocted cocoons and the lessons from our present, quarantined times will merely become a footnote in our respective, albeit shared, histories.
Views are personal.