BENGALURU: As different parts of our country go in and out of lockdowns of varying degrees of strictness depending on how rapidly Covid-19 is spreading through the population, we are getting used to spending many of our milestones locked down, be it birthdays or anniversaries. Instagram, Twitter and all other social media platforms are filled with memories of such events with hashtags of locked-in celebrations, with some taking the effort to coordinate Zoom parties, complete with everyone having identical cakes, beverages and all the other markers of the event.
Some people, tired of the crowded tiles of a video-conferencing screen, went a few steps further, getting a whole lot of screens for each of the individuals, though there is still room for the ultimate intervention of social mingling where people at the party wander around the party, socialising with whoever they like, the hosts walking around making sure everyone is comfortable, and some people who do not quite enjoy these big parties hanging around discreetly in the background, popping up to make their attendance known but keeping to themselves.
The locked-in celebrations and the virtual parties are a pain in the neck for most people, and except for the very few who truly and magically enjoy what the virtual worlds have to offer, it really isn’t fun for most. One would imagine that the heavily introverted people who are very little except wallflowers in the regular parties so far might be relieved at these virtual events where they don’t have to physically mingle with the group, but the online versions can be even harder, especially if the hosts are trying hard to replicate the offline, physical world experience online by asking for all kinds of coordination in terms of clothes, activities and accessories.
The spotlight can be turned on the virtual participant a lot more directly and brightly than in the regular parties, and it is often harder to hide virtually than one imagines. All the tricks of muting oneself or pretending the broadband doesn’t work, or even making it appear as if the electricity went off, work only to a very limited degree. One can get just as easily trapped in a virtual party as in a physical party, though the converse – that people might have greater fun virtually than in real life – is hardly ever true. Here, the curve has decidedly shifted lower in terms of how fun these events can be.
For people in relationship who are used to socialising with other people in similar relationships, moving from one party to another, the loss of these spaces can be quite painful. Without other relationships to offset one’s own, we often end up having to really face what’s going on for ourselves and that’s not always pleasant. Birthdays and anniversaries are rarely as fun by oneself as one might hope. We put on brave faces, get really creative and do what we can, but the reality of locked-in lives can be quite stark. There’s only so much zooming around one can do before stopping to just really see each other.
The writer is a counsellor with InnerSight