It’s been a year since our lives were wreaked by COVID in a historically unprecedented manner. Today as I look down the throat of yet another lockdown starting in Mumbai, I resist my instinctive urge to scream and focus on my screen!

That screen has been my friend and companion through this extended period of physical distance from my family and friends. Very early, at the start of this social distancing, conversations had shifted from what we were doing, how we’re feeling, to what we were watching on the screen. That seemed to be the only thing that was new and engaging and possible to achieve and interact on. Our penchant for consumption thwarted by our inability to move out, meet people, shop, eat out, had found a new outlet and we screen binged till we were blurry-eyed and exhausted enough to sleep.

It was disconcerting and disorienting, yet bizarrely, it was comforting to see crowds, parties and hugging on the screen. Fact is indeed stranger than fiction… our interactions with loved ones were also being virtually enacted.

Zoom the video call interface, was everywhere. People had to engage with each other through small video boxes on screen and zoom “parties” and “meetings” were commonplace. My friend whose family is scattered all around the world and country, told me excitedly how a nephew would organise Sunday zoom parties. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins would all meet to “chat” and “play games” with each other. It made them feel extremely connected and happy in these extraordinary circumstances. Births, Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, all celebrated virtually. Even the sombre funerals and prayer meetings were virtually screened to “attend.”

Zoom soon took over the WFH; “work from home” space and all meetings were held virtually. People would choose a “zoom wall” in their homes to serve as a background and bookshelves in the background were declared a winner.

Everyone had embraced this work from home model, but I was anything but surprised when the words “zoom fatigue” began floating around. Even my friend, when I spoke to her more recently, who had been so happy and excited with family zoom parties, said that her family has not had a zoom party in the last four months. Their interactions were back to the more organic, one on ones.

I remember back In 2004 when a collective cheer greeted Facebook. We busied ourselves with new magical, long-distance connections that we could forge with just a click. Social media has grown exponentially and since exploded into our lives like fairy dust formed by the pixels of a screen.

Today I am on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Signal, LinkedIn, Telegram, Clubhouse, Slack and House Party and God knows, will be on the many more that will emerge… there’s no escaping that.

what I really want and know, is, that I need to kiss and cuddle my grandson, truly hug my son, have unconstricted meals and, everyone talking together, conversations with my friends and family… and be FREE from quarantines, the mask and the sanitiser!

Neerja Shah

Former Editor of Elle India & TV Producer

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