My psychotherapist followed up on my assessment results through a Zoom meeting. This appointment was my third one using a video chat since the city shut down. My doctor thanked me, hoping that this wouldn’t be the new norm. I wanted to thank her—it was convenient—but I thought it’d come off as distasteful. Prior to informing me that my testing exhibited “variegated antisocial behavior,” she asked me how I was handling the social isolation. The thought that it might be a trick question didn’t enter my mind.
“I am thoroughly enjoying it,” I said. “It’s like my typical day off.” I am well aware that I prefer my orange tabby’s company over most humans’. Unable to make eye contact through the tiny camera on my laptop, my eyes wandered toward my movement in the corner of the screen. I contemplated my perception of normalcy, knowing my insight is a bit skewed. We should have seen this scenario coming.
The majority of my family and friends are in New York. The week before, my sister messaged me to share that my uncle in New York had caught COVID-19.
It hadn’t been a matter of if the virus was going to hit home; it was when, and here it was. The perturbation of our society’s functioning in the future has been on everyone’s mind. We are, after all, America, a nation that prides itself on being nearly untouchable by plagues, among other events. When Americans were informed that they couldn’t see their friends and family, socialize, and live their day to day life outside of their home, they reached for their electronic devices.
It’s not a new concept, either for work, or to keep in the loop, or for the biased or baseless information found on the internet, or to provide a helping hand. Cellphone-supplied music, movies, television shows, podcasts, and apps have become our narrative on our daily commutes, in the developing or dissolution of relationships, and even in the formation our memories.
An aspect that is changing about normalcy is that we are wholly giving in to the internet’s ability to do anything. The World Wide Web has never been so widely used for learning, escapism, introspection, human connection, human separation, and our well-being as it is now. The internet will affect topics such as working remotely, doctor’s visit, and therapist appointments, leaving office spaces vacant, and how restaurants function. It will decimate certain jobs, leaving office spaces empty, and ultimately close businesses, an outcome all too familiar for shopping malls.
The functionality of social distancing has further seeped into the world of socializing, providing us the ability to have virtual happy hours. You can share drinks with strangers in the safety of your home, leaving the existence of bars in question. The physical absence of people is inarguably straining—but connecting digitally does not make it any less real. “Black Mirror” has sustained this concept.
Streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Disney Plus are experiencing ever higher peaks in volume, serving as background noise in our new lives. The significant move by the film industry was to fast-forward newly released movies into our own homes through streaming services instead of movie theaters. Theaters have been struggling to adapt since streaming’s arrival. YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Twitch, and Facebook have livestreams on every useful subject. College lecture halls may never again be at full capacity. There’s a possibility that the majority of the nation will enroll in online courses. Musicians have been livestreaming performances and giving their proceeds to charities, despite their financial struggle due to tour cancellations—the primary source of their income.
The desperate times have rekindled the creativity in many. Those who’ve wanted to create art but couldn’t find the time now do. They have begun strumming chords on guitars, learning brushstrokes with Bob Ross, taking a shot at the basics of photography, and nailing down furniture like Ron Swanson. It is more than likely that waves of citizens will reinvent the wheel and pursue their passions as a career.
YouTube changes lives. Reddit has become a leading resource for direction and comfort for those who are struggling, especially with unemployment services. Users have shared their experiences, guiding strangers through the frustrating process. These acts of kindness were there well before COVID-19; now they are at the forefront.
The abyss of the dark web can outweigh the web’s kindness. One click can lead to a lengthy thread embracing violence, misogyny, homophobia, and racism that leaves you in despair. It can make it feel like we are caught in the middle of hail fire, a civil war with the internet as the battleground. With organized protests with ominous names such as “Operation Gridlock,” citizens have been demanding to go back to work because they’re “unwillingly” on unemployment. It is a reminder that capitalism is etched into the American mentality. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms recently quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. over Twitter: “Conscientious stupidity or sincere ignorance.” This wise choice of words was directed in reply to an unknown number that had texted Bottoms and her son, using a racial epithet and demanding the re-opening of Atlanta after the mayor made the (right) decision to oppose Governor Brian Kemp’s re-opening of the state.
It can feel dystopian, as if reality has taken on the role of a Phillip K. Dick novel—but this isn’t a dystopia, it is a paradigm shift. We can only maintain our composure for the safety of our loved ones and others we encounter, and accept that we are in the midst of a societal evolution. Stay home if possible, stay protected when you need to go out, and crash a virtual happy hour.