Jess D'Agostino: The transition to life online
The coronavirus pandemic began as a murmur of distant contagion. Like many other newsworthy tragedies, it seems unreal and somehow unthreatening until it happens to you. The world has been shocked by a wave of uncertainty. People were ripped from their comfortable nooks of life and normalcy with no warning, no time to process. As a student on the big, bustling University of Michigan campus, my daily routine has shifted largely. However, I’ve chosen to develop a positive perspective on my new reality — a decision I know is a privilege not everyone has the opportunity to make in this unprecedented time. My routine can continue, and there are even new possibilities that were not available to me in Ann Arbor (beyond that of quality New Jersey bagels and access to Wawa coffee). I’ve found peace in a new perspective and the prospect of technology.
With stay-at-home orders restricting many from leaving their homes, it becomes increasingly challenging to make days feel anything but mundane. It was not until a week ago that I realized the importance of something I had completely underestimated the role of throughout quarantine: technology. I would like to recognize that this is not a luxury enjoyed by all. This, however, made my realization even stronger: We need technology not only for ourselves but especially for individuals without the opportunities and resources we so often take for granted.
Zoom, BlueJeans, Google Hangouts and more video platforms have become the new classrooms for countries across the globe. Without technology, this would not be possible. While there is undeniably a difference in learning through my computer screen in my pajamas, I still have the opportunity to learn from professors I’ve grown comfortable listening to over a semester’s worth of work. I am grateful for the chance to continue my education even if the circumstances are a bit unorthodox. I unexpectedly find myself longing for lecture halls yet remain grateful for the familiar vibrato of my professors’ voices through a time where nearly everything else is uncharted territory. Not only school but work, too, has been transitioned to remote operations — an unthinkable feat without solid WiFi and access to internet software.
Despite being isolated to a house with only my mom, my dad and my dog, I have the ability to regularly talk to my sister in Nashville, Tennessee, and my brother in a house around the corner. Technology has presented us with the possibility to continue conversing with friends, family and colleagues. My four-year-old niece has learned to ask us to “Zoom her” and my family regularly conducts games over different video chat rooms. Moving out of a constantly occupied dorm building to a home occupied by three people has felt much livelier than anticipated. With everyone experiencing this pandemic simultaneously, it seems communication is actually more common now than before our lives were essentially paused until further notice. The sheer possibility of communicating with the outside world — family, friends and beyond — helps to keep potential loneliness and the inevitable stir-craziness at bay.
The routine I had grown so comfortable replicating day after day may have been taken away from me. My trips to the University of Michigan Museum of Art cafe may now be trips down the stairs to my Keurig, but I am grateful to be able to adapt my perspective to the new circumstances around me. It is this adaptation that I encourage you to focus on. The space around us can be refocused to provide the different sectors of our lives a temporary substitute for the musty tables in Hatcher Graduate Library and a Friday night trip to Frita Batidos. While I yearn for my daily walks to CityRow, I am thankful for the unbelievable camaraderie demonstrated by fitness apps and instructors everywhere. Free memberships and Instagram/Facebook Live have provided people the opportunity to continue to exercise, dance, sing and even act from the comfort (and safety) of their homes. In lieu of movie theater releases, movies have been streamed online and uploaded to different streaming networks. The world has adapted and molded to fit this new technological way of life.
While all of these uses of technology and social media platforms are arguably incredible adaptations to a social-distancing lifestyle, it is the access to news and applications that augment safety measures that stand out amid the coronavirus pandemic. Being informed on the latest news is imperative to navigate this crisis in the safest and most effective way to “flatten the curve.” Additionally, apps like Instacart allow people to avoid grocery stores and thus avoid potentially infecting others or themselves.
Though I encourage people to continue to go outside safely and avoid an overwhelming amount of screen time, it has been reassuring to find something positive amid a very negative time in history. Without technology, life truly would be paused for everyone, but instead, we have found a way to adapt to this new, much smaller world available to each of us, albeit much more virtually than ever before. In the absence of The Michigan Daily paper to hold, we have continued to write and publish to our virtual platform. With my regular morning coffee, my phone acts as a substitute for the paper I know I will someday hold again. For now, I’m happy to report that my phone will suffice.
Jess D'Agostino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.