Feeling disconnected?

Photo courtesy of Avni Shridhar, Student Publications

In May of 2020, I deleted Twitter.

I deleted Snapchat. I deleted one of my Instagram accounts. I went even further, and I stopped checking my texts. I stopped answering calls from friends. I avoided news outlets like the plague. I quit listening to podcasts. I hate to admit it, but even stopped listening to music too.

Two months into quarantine, people were desperate for human interaction. Zoom cocktail hours, Instagram challenges and online game-nights abounded, but instead of trying to stay as connected as possible, I made a shift into isolation.

This was a radical change for me, someone who prides themselves in being up-to-date and in-the-know, someone who was constantly cycling through multiple apps, someone who prioritized creating and sharing online. I have always thought that maintaining connections to your family and friends, your community and the world is one of the most important things one can do. But I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Up until that tipping point, I had been trying to do it all. Keep up with my emails, run social media accounts for different organizations, maintain upwards of ten personal accounts, keep up with four different weekly podcasts, watch Youtubers, binge Netflix, play mobile games, listen to all relevant new music releases every Friday, call my family multiple times a day, keep up with friends from home and college over text and Snapchat and FaceTime. It felt like a daily chore that I enjoyed. Or did I?

I often think about how I got to that place. When did my online life turn from vibrant and enriching to an overwhelming blur? I maintained that blur through the strangest semester of my life as we were sent home due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. That blur was all we had for those first few months.

Collectively piecing together information about the world is what gave us our sanity, or so I thought. But, instead of assuaging my rising feelings of panic in relation to what was going on around me, maintaining connections to the outside world only served to heighten my anxiety. I’m not sure if it was a slow progression or if it happened all at once. But, suddenly I was no longer able to interact with my phone without an overwhelming dread inching its way up my throat. Sometimes I felt like I was suffocating.

So I shut it all off. (Okay, not all of it. I still looked at Tik Tok).

And the results were… well they were good. Sitting at home, I had much more time to myself to just think. I learned new things about myself and became confident in the things I already knew about myself. I was able to embark on simple personal projects that I never thought I would be able to do. I began to exercise, take dance classes, learn how to write in Hindi, tie-dye clothing (thanks Tik Tok). I finally had time again to just do art.

Other than that, this was the probably the first time in my whole life that I was able to properly give my attention to my sisters, who are ten and twelve. Where before I would shoo them away when they asked me to play, now, I now had the time (and the energy) to say yes. I know that this pandemic was difficult for many people and in many ways, but I am so thankful for the time it gave me to spend with my family.

After the summer, I felt comfortable enough to download Twitter again, and now I use it in a casual fashion; it doesn’t matter if I ever tweet or even check it every day. I just look at it when I want to.

I know it is important to connect with the world around you, but you cannot do that if you are not connected with yourself and the people closest to you first. I’m not necessarily recommending the cliché “delete your social media.” but I do recommend approaching the online world as optional and no-pressure. It should never feel like a chore, and if it is no longer bringing you joy, just disconnect.