Escaping the Reality of Social Distancing

Written by on 08/10/2020

Unless you’ve been living in a bunker, you would have been privy to the catastrophic impact Coronavirus has had on everyone’s life around the world, not just the poor and working-class but also the elite shadows of society.

It all started as a whisper………

It was back in March when we heard little whispers of a flu which was spreading amongst citizens in China, it appeared as though this flu had just popped out of nowhere until we were told, eventually, people were dying at record numbers and it was not a flu but…a virus.

It took the rest of the world quite a bit of time and debating to put plans of action into place.
With debates came confusion and uncertainty, is it a flu, a virus, or a disease? The height of uncertainty which this pandemic bought about was unprecedented. People watched the News in anticipation of what that day’s death toll would be. People were able to exhale when It was finally announced the country would be going into ‘Lock-Down’. I have only seen that this happen in movies and I didn’t know what it would look like in reality.

Life in Behind Four Walls

And what it looked like was a dystopian-apocalyptic movie. The roads were empty, shops closed, schools closed, some stations were closed, cars were permanently stuck on driveways, and oyster cards locked tightly into purses. Everyone and everything was in lockdown except the speeding cameras, someone intentionally left those on. It was every employees’ dream come true but every family and friends’ nightmare. For the first time in a long time, everyone was experiencing the same reality and we could all relate to each other somehow, we were doing the same things eating more, exercising outdoors, and shopping at locals.

The first week when they announced lock-down, I went down to my local Asda at 6 am, thinking I could miss the Loo-Roll Raiders and Dooms Day Hoarders by going early.
I was so wrong. The queue started at the shop entrance and lead right down to the middle of the car park. I did what we Brits do best and queued. The queue moved slowly but gradually; I finally got a foot in the door only to find that

1. The shelves were empty
2. You could only buy a max of 2 items per product
3. The only things that were left untouched were fruit and veg and anything in the fresh aisle.

After I did my fruit and veg shop, I immediately rushed home to log onto Asda to do my online shopping. By this point, I started to think that Sense 8 got it right, maybe we humans do think on the same waves and can read each other’s thoughts because the site had crashed due to too much traffic. I won’t bore you with the details of the other online grocery shops; it will just bring back bad memories for both of us. It was like everyone was doing the same thing at the same time when this time last week instead of being at home they would have been doing one of a million things, all those alternate avenues were closed and now limited to a few options, including working from home.

Working & Home Alone

Working from home became compulsory in my workplace, the last day at the office I picked up my laptop and paperwork and said bye for now to all my colleagues. The first 3 weeks were a breeze, I had unlimited lunch and coffee breaks, I exercised between Zoom meetings. I didn’t have Chatty Patty next to me to distract me from my work and I didn’t have to smell morning breath on my daily commute which is always packed. I was living the life, getting paid to work from home and there was no way my manager could track my productivity, it felt the tables had turned. I dare say I was much more productive.

But, after a while, my enthusiasm started to dim down like a candle near an open window. It just wasn’t fun anymore. I kind of missed the smell on the trains, saying hello to the little mice at Victoria station, and just breathing air that hasn’t circulated in a room. I think I missed the social side of things, the nightlife, going out to eat with friends.

Virtual Connections

Most of my social interactions were from Facebook and Instagram. I’d go on Instagram to send a message but often find I’ve gone so far down the rabbit hole I honestly couldn’t tell you which video I had watched first or if I even sent that message. It felt like time just vanished in those moments I was sucked into a viral vortex. It became my pass-time, my go-to when I needed social contact and reassurance that I wasn’t the last living thing on earth.
I became so addicted not to the social side of it but to the ease in which I could find posts that engaged me and hydrated my thirst for random useless knowledge.

Everything that’s in my feeds appeals to me, I look once and I’m sucked-in, but every time I press the lock button on my phone, I just feel unsatisfied with the dosage I received. I need another hit. But that’s the trouble, everywhere I go on the internet I’m bombarded with advertisements relevant to my search history, with recommendations based on my viewing history and likes. I had enough when google suggested which funeral casket I should bury my Aunt in. It was overwhelming and I found myself forgetting things and struggling to put words together to make a coherent sentence. My engagement at work deteriorated and I struggled to concentrate on one task for more than 10 minutes without being distracted by advertisements, feeds, suggestions, notifications and text messages.

The Social Dilemma

Imagine if you could send messages to family and friends on Netflix, some households’ electricity bill would rival that of Buckingham Palace. This is one platform where I am not bombarded with ads, where I have more ‘freedom’ to choose what I want to watch. Though it was a suggestive prompt that lead me to watch ‘The Social Dilemma’ (a decision i did not regret). If you haven’t watched this documentary yet, it’s highly informative and recommended. One of the many topics discussed in this documentary film is the notion that our online social lives are over-flowing into our real lives, which is true. A study at the University of Pennsylvania found that high usage of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram increases rather decreases feelings of loneliness.

Another study conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland found out of more than 6,000 children aged 12 to 15 who used social media more heavily were more likely to report issues such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness, as well as aggression and anti-social behaviour. You may think this is no cause for concern because the effects are not physical, but 55 percent of plastic surgeons have reported seeing patients who requested to improve their appearance in selfies, a new term called “Snapchat Dysmorphia”.

How much individuality should we all have? Does social media add to happiness? Are we using online social media as a form of escape from our repressive reality where we can’t say certain things without consequences? One thing is for certain, I do.
I use social media as a form of escapism. When I go online and continue to browse for hours, I am escaping all the tasks which require my immediate attention, I’m escaping the awkward silence in meetings and the quiet loneliness I experience in my own company. The reality I am experiencing heavily relies on my online reality. I shop online, I watch TV online and I work online.

How can we separate our real lives from our virtual lives when our real lives rely on the internet?

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