Kaitlyn Smith / Daily Nexus

It’s been over a month since we’ve started spending our days in isolation, and I am slowly losing my grip on reality.

The unprecedented transition to online classes due to COVID-19 has drastically disrupted our normal routines. Gone are the days of being bombarded in the Arbor, struggling to find a seat in the crowded lib or trying to make it out of a rush-hour bike lane. Quarantining makes it difficult to feel connected to others and even easier to feel alone. Being cut off from people and resources for such extended periods of time can be hard on your mental health. The constant influx of news updates surrounding the pandemic is overwhelming and anxiety producing, and there is a plethora of false information being spread across online platforms. Despite this, social media is more necessary now than ever before.

Social media is often portrayed as useless and a killer of productivity, amounting to nothing but mindless scrolling through feeds. It’s been criticized for causing feelings of social isolation and a fear of missing out. Now, in a time of physical isolation, there’s nothing to miss out on. Social media has become invaluable as a tool that can help us feel a more intimate connection to others and restore a sense of normalcy to the chaos uprooting our lives. Without the physical markers of everyday life that we have come to depend on, many of us may be losing track of time, our responsibilities and our lives in general. 

As I witness my Twitter timeline collectively descend into insanity every few hours, I am consoled by the knowledge that I am not alone in these feelings. We might all be scared, but at least we can know that we’re all in this together. Being able to make fun of our nervousness and unease with others who share these sentiments is an immense source of comfort.

The sudden shift to online courses, taken in isolation, has proven itself to be a difficult adjustment. Seeing memes shared on Facebook about other students’ complete lack of a sleep schedule or motivation to do any assignments is reassuring in that the experiences we are struggling with are shared. We can’t share these experiences in person, but this makes it all the more essential that we can share them online. That is, for those of us fortunate enough to be able to be bored and concerned by these challenges alone, social media has taken on an even more critical role in our lives.

With the possibility for spontaneous social interaction removed from our daily lives, social media is now the only way we can stay in touch with others on a large scale. Many of us have started feeling the need to communicate with and be perceived by our peers in a way reminiscent of in-person interaction. This is evident on social media in the surge of viral challenges: from posting unflattering pictures just to take them down the next day, doing push-ups in a video chain, filling out oddly specific bingos or just finding excuses to tag 10 friends.

Many of us have started feeling the need to communicate with and be perceived by our peers in a way reminiscent of in-person interaction.

Sure, there might not be anybody listening to each and every song from your 30-day song challenge, but what matters is that you feel like you’re staying connected. Illusory or not, this sense of connectivity and community is so important in preserving our sanity and preventing us from feeling isolated. Social media has also supported the rise of quarantine hobbies, and every Dalgona coffee made or TikTok dance learned brings us one step closer together. 

Spending too much time online is usually never a good thing, but the digital world is quickly becoming the social reality for us for a substantial part of the near future. The pandemic has brought with it a social crisis, and social media is helping us ease this loneliness.

As the days spent alone blur together, videoconferencing sites like Zoom are helping us redefine and reconstruct our social lives. The past feels a lifetime away, the future is scarily uncertain, so we’re left trying to share as much of the present as possible. Social media allows us to feel connected to those whose presence we miss, creating a virtual community from wherever we are. Even though we think of what life was like before we were thrust into isolation, this time spent apart from loved ones will make the days together more valuable. We may feel lonely, but social media reminds us that we are far from alone. 

Veronica Vo hopes this article finds you well in these strange and uncertain times.

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