A Cambridge introvert reflects on the joys of quarantine
Currently feeling more popular in bed than I ever did at Cambridge.
In all honesty, this lockdown has brought with it a frightening lack of change to my introverted life. The only real difference appears to be increased social popularity that is both perplexing and, at times, overwhelming. My Easter break was supposed to be a period of recovery from the social tidal wave of student life, yet now my phone screen is constantly alight as people attempt to maintain their need for communication previously sated by face-to-face conversation.
The beast must be fed, and apparently, the only way to do so is through awkward, buffering video chats.
Who knew that a nationwide lockdown would increase the amount of forced social interaction? Clueless though I am as to why people have a burning desire to see my face in low resolution, they insist: and so I squirrel away in my room praying that my friends cannot hear my parents or, more worryingly, that my parents cannot listen to them. Whereas before my bedroom was my solace from socialisation, now it’s the very stage for it. Group chats are no longer natural ad hoc meetings, usually centred around the drunken events of the night before. They now must be pencilled in three days prior, allowing members time to compile a seemingly short list of what’s occurred in their life since the last call.
I’m under no illusion that the sudden resurrection of my DM’s (last seen to be this busy in the days of BBM) is due to an immediate improvement in my quality of chat. Conversations have mutated into an entirely new breed, courtesy of quarantine. The rather common statement of “I haven’t done anything today” would surely be a conversation ender in the world we once knew, yet now what follows is a ritualistic sharing of woes and tales of boredom. The jury is out on whether our taste in chat has hit new lows, or whether, in the true British style, we love a collective moan.
The greatest upset for an anti-social being such as myself is that I can no longer leave a message unread until I feel ready for conversation; no one truly believes the excuse of being too busy to reply anymore. Conversations are no longer solely on my terms. Instead, I must be accessible at all times to react to the latest Tiger King meme, or to assure a friend that “yes, I also cannot wait for the lockdown to be over.”
And let us not forget the double-edged sword that is the group chat. Efficient though they can be, enabling one to compile numerous conversations into one virtual dossier of how everyone is doing, the frequency with which they are used can be overwhelming. My personal popularity has only been enhanced by what can be described as ‘the dormant group chat’. The group chat that you forgot you were in that has been mostly inactive for at least two years, suddenly erupts to life out of the sheer boredom and, quite frankly, the audacity of one of its occupants. Latent friendships can be rekindled, stoked by the need for human interaction, and can provide surprisingly good chat.
Notifications still bring with them a sense of joy, (even when it’s only Toope), but please don’t be offended if I don’t reply immediately: I’m simply too popular.
Header image credit: Emily Bonnon