Our physical diaries may be barren, but for many of us, our online ones have never been busier. Before the COVID-19 lockdown precautions were in place we were told we had FOMO- fear of missing out, and we would join in any social activity going, there are social media brags that prove it. Staying home was the cooler, not as well-known sister, the new alternative going out, but it was definitely a novelty- for the time near payday, hangovers and perhaps in the early bliss of a new relationship or an arrival of a new baby.
Fast-forward to March 2020 and the majority of us have been told to stay in. Ordered even. Our generation has never been part of something as history defining as this situation and it is uncharted territory. We are used to mostly unlimited freedom and movement, busy lives that never seem to stop. Planning a day out would begin online with casual research, a WhatsApp group. The ritual of getting ready recorded on social media, recording the event on our phones. Watching it back through archives and Facebook memories as the months and years progressed #makingmemories. Because our lives have never been so non-stop, the announcement of enforced staying in wasn’t all that bad once the claustrophobic anxiety and inset rebellion against being told what to do had settled. Digital detoxes from excessive screen time are a thing, but an open-ended tonic of staying in the house? Unheard of. The problem with this solution is we have never had to deal with it; there are no routines, nothing to guide us through this new entirely accessible, online only world from the confinement of our living room.
The staying in solution is a great one; we are told we can rest. Learn a language. Cook a completely new repertoire of healthy, vegan, nourishing meals. Come out fitter, a better person. Paint your walls. Finish that book. You’ve been given the gift of time, you save lives. What could be better? Except, it is exhausting. It is tough on your mental health. 24/7 pressure. On top of your newly unearthed and paraded unattained life goals, there are the new online versions of your physical life to fit in. There is no longer an excuse to miss your 7am yoga class. It’s on Zoom! Imagine my distain to hear my sister had no free slots to video call on Houseparty that evening and the family face to face chat would have to wait. All round happy man Joe Wicks will ensure you are up and in your PE kit for 9. That magazine you can’t get round to buying? The digital edition is free for a year. Read it before breakfast! That series you can’t wait for? They’ve brought it forward by a month! Squeeze in marriage maintenance, covering your roots, basic hygiene beyond the constant hand washing, clearing up the newly dubbed ‘lockdown clutter’, screaming into pillows and you’ve got the formula for your new lifestyle.
Remote working and #WFH (working from home for those not in the biz) always looked like a dreamy alternative to the office norm. Fast forward to the online sinkhole and you’ve realised it’s not as easy as you thought. Your non-online job now takes three times as long, your back hurts and there’s no one to complain with near the hot drinks machine. Plus, there is no off button. The app is on your phone; a colleague is overseas and needs you in the evening- your day just extended by 2 or more hours.
In between this, those with children are juggling homeschooling too. Slipped between the tiny crater of Joe Wicks and a nourishing brunch, you are now teaching actual knowledge to the future of tomorrow and providing a wholesome well-rounded programme for your child to a) not go off the rails and b) stop asking for snacks whilst you attend a meeting in your dining room. I find myself asking ‘WWND’ (what would nursery do) and imagine the staff’s happy smiling faces covered in sandwich crumbs , snot and mud by choice. What would they do when my 3 year old is asking for glue at 8am for the fourth day in a row?
I’m a teacher at a school with hundreds of Chinese students in attendance. We’ve dealt with the Coronavirus anxieties, upset and worry from day 1 as it affected them and their families. We’ve cared, we have reassured and we have helped them. Covid-19 was a slow ticking time bomb, we all knew it was coming but no one knew to what extent and how badly it would hit the UK. Now, it’s here. The local communities, NHS and frontline workers are frankly, keeping us all going and without them we would be jibbering wrecks sobbing into our iPhones at the side of the street not really knowing what to do. We may be in uncharted digital chaos, but I for one am happy to start switching off the screen madness in favour of sitting in, staying in and saving those lives. Your old life will be there after all this, and you might just see it with a different outlook, not through the confines of 4 pixelated walls.