What can we do with what we have to fulfill what we fundamentally need?
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a surreal collision between what is good in society and what has long been broken: families and non-essential businesses are in lockdown, challenging our understanding of relationships and routines. Essential workers earn rightful titles of heroes, though for many the sacrifice is compounded by economic realities and faraway decision-makers. If we operate under the gracious assumption that we are all - students, janitors, frontline nurses, politicians alike - doing the best we can with what we have, we still arrive at the emotional reality: these circumstances have been so, so hard.
However, if this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we are all united under the shared experience of confinement and isolation. In some way or another, we are living lives removed from their daily color, stimulation, interactions, wonders.
While dystopian sci-fi is quick to dramatize the dichotomy between humanity and technology, or social psychologists remark that the most digitally connected generation is also the loneliest, the question remains: what can we do with what we have to fulfill what we fundamentally need?
The bottom line is that we all must stay home to reduce the amount of people who will become infected by COVID-19, so we can and should use technology in the right way: to enhance our home experiences.
Our relationships seem so fragile now that physical interaction doesn’t keep us close. We don’t see our favorite baristas every morning anymore, or commiserate over the daily traffic with our commute buddies. But now’s our chance to consciously reach out, to cultivate relationships that might’ve been born in circumstances but can flourish with love and care.
Although at the onset of my quarantined days, I would bask in the long sought-after silence, after a few days, I felt a void where my friends’ voices had once occupied. After many Facetime attempts, I realized that the best ways we would reach each other was through scheduling a call. We didn’t necessarily have to plan the call days in advance, but even just figuring out a good time for us on the day of was helpful in successfully engaging in a long, unbothered, and meaningful conversation.
While we may be cooped up at home, as students we are still puzzling together schedules filled with online classes and work meetings. I actually prefer Zoom over Facetime calls, because Zoom is higher quality and allows multiple people on a call at once. Zoom even has a virtual background option, which I like to use to convince myself that I’m lounging by the beach and not where I actually am — which is sitting on my bed with tangled hair, wearing the same PJs for a week. Now that our schedules are coming together, certain groups of friends have designated an hour each week to call. Hearing each others' voices and seeing each others’ faces maintains our intimate and personal relationship much more than the quick abbreviated text messages we otherwise send.
Beyond face-to-face calls, my friends and I have discovered that there are many creative ways to mimic a typical hangout via the Internet. For example, we have used the Netflix Party extension on Google Chrome to watch the latest season of On My Block together, chatting on the side about how bad the ending was. Through the app JQBX, my friends and I have blasted our “2010s hits” playlist, celebrating a decade we reminisce now more than ever.
I recommend the selective usage of apps. Although there are many cool things to see on Instagram, such as different influencers livestreaming food recipes or brands sharing DIY tutorials, the abundance of social media activity can be extremely overwhelming. Being able to decipher which apps bring me the most connectivity with the people I truly care about and which apps are simply adding more noise to my life has allowed me to keep my composure as I gorge through various media in my newfound excess free time.
The ultimate person I have decided to connect with is myself. Because now is a time when loneliness can strike without any recourse to fall back on, I have realized the importance of consciously trying to understand myself. Although we may have been externally social in our typically hectic lives, we have also most likely sacrificed socialization with our own souls and minds. Rather than viewing myself as alone, I now see myself as someone I have yet to explore and cultivate a relationship with. I want to use the abundance of time I have to myself right now as a perfect opportunity to extract my interests, passions, and hidden thoughts.
Instead of just serving as a consumer of technology, as I often do, , I’m also using this time to take control of what often controls me and let my expression run free. I seek to create art and produce positivity, and I recommend you do too. Let us try both the traditional forms of art like painting and drawing and more abstract methods of art like writing down lists of our favorite things or lists of things that don’t correlate to anyone else but ourselves.
With all that said, though, it’s important to realize that we don’t have to do anything groundbreaking and we don’t even have to be productive in our current situation. We simply have to experience each of our days to the fullest, whatever that means, so that we aren’t stalled as the world seems to be, but so that we continue to grow. COVID-19 has helped us reassess our priorities. It has shown us that stores can close, work can stop, but our minds and our power as humans are continuous. We must keep fighting to find our peace through our irreplaceable creativity. Go Facetime a friend, start an online book club, and doodle on a pair of old jeans.
Or, come to our Haus. We’re always open.