Social life will remain distanced

One full year of distancing has brought the end of social life as we know it, and ushered in a new era of digital communication, for better or worse.

As the one year mark for quarantine has come and went, the importance of our online personalities has risen greatly. During a time when our interactions are rarely more than zoom calls or text messages, social media takes center stage. And, as important as online interactions are — dare I say, necessary at times — the authenticity of relationships is under strain. Perhaps, even, this authenticity is gone for good.

It may come as no surprise that relationships in the age of social media have been losing the same directness that people shared before the internet. Even significant events can only be as important as the notification that pops up during your homework session after school. And quarantine, zoom classes and all, has been one of the last steps to finalizing our generation’s online dependence.

Online, at its core, means convenience. A few clicks can bring packages, share your life and start connections with people across continents. However, like many other cases, convenience sacrifices quality. Take a Zoom call, for example. You see less of other people — they could just be floating shoulders and you would never know — and the resolution of what we see and hear has literally gone down. Don’t forget the zoom classes where half or more of the panels are black screens where there should be people. When people want to talk, they often avoid unmuting their mic and rather opt for the chat box or another texting service entirely.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, our relationships are merely husks of what they were before. This, up to this point, was necessary: the wellbeing and peace of mind of the public required distance. When this need disappears, however, the convenience of doing everything online won’t.

This tradeoff between quality and convenience has not often halted “progress,” and it doesn’t seem to be the same with the online environment.

A year of retreating into black screens and mute buttons has taught us that difficult situations in relationships can be avoided rather than confronted. Ingenuine and rosy instagram posts taught us that imperfections and stressful events can be covered over and swept to the side. One-on-one calls taught us that although favorable, the personal ambience that normally accompanies close conversations is not mandatory.

And, as much as I would like to think otherwise, reverting back to quote-un-quote normality is not possible: not in the sense that it was before, at least.

This is not just a Generation Z issue. Everyone who relied on their computers, tablets and phones for work and other interactions over the past year has been affected by this. This extended period of staying home is a transition into a world where the internet is more important than ever.

I didn’t even know what Zoom was before the school closed in March 2020. Now, I find it one of my most helpful tools — and likely something I will be using for years to come. Though this may seem positive, it’s a constant reminder that convenience supersedes the quality of the relationships that we were supposed to build in the first place.

And so, when we do leave this time of uncertainty, it becomes paramount to remind ourselves that the personas that we create online are artificial. If we really want to satisfy the innate human social element, we have to strive for better.

By Ethan Park, Copy and Coverage Editor-in-chief
Editorial Cartoon by Daniela Marquez