I want to share something I learned this week. It helped me figure out that I’m dealing with the absolute death this pandemic has caused for our social lives in all the wrong ways.
In psychology, we have this thing called exposure training. In it, you learn to face the things you’re afraid of, like spiders or crowds. Once you face up to these fears, you stop avoiding the things you enjoy and start doing them again. You might try new experiences you never would have before! Sounds great, right?
Well, it’s a long time since I’ve seen a spider and felt scared and I doubt I’d manage a fortnightly column if I still felt horrified about what crowds of people might think of me… So, what fears do I have left? Well, turns out I’m afraid of getting to know the people from my course.
Now, I obviously don’t mean I’m afraid of making friends from my course in general; I’d love for that to happen. If you put me in a lecture hall, I’ll talk to whoever I can; throw me in a house party afterwards and I’ll be straight into the mix there, too. But those options just aren’t available right now, so what am I supposed to do?
I hate how online and on-screen my life has become
Turns out, I’m supposed to link up with colleagues online. It seems obvious, but it’s hard. My lecturers try hard to facilitate this, and fair play to them, but I can’t be the only one who feels my soul deflate when the carefully rationed 10 minutes of social interaction I get in a breakout room rolls around. It all feels so fake: how am I supposed to really connect with anyone that way?
I hate how online and on-screen my life has become. Lectures, zoom meetings, exams, presentations, work: all of it is online and completely on-screen. It’s exhausting. Honestly, having to turn on the laptop and sit at it all day over and over again tears me up inside. I don’t want to add anything more to the pile, so I’ve been avoiding talking to my colleagues online.
But all that really means is that I’ve taken how much I hate how online my life is now, and I’m letting it stop me doing the things I enjoy. So I’m trying not to be afraid anymore. Like just the other day I had a great chat with two people in class. Then guess what happened later that week when I saw them speak on-screen again?