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The moment I received the dreaded email announcing classes were going online for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester, I knew the first thing to go was my social life. If I am not mindful, I could spend a week in my room without talking to a single person face to face. When I returned to my home in Arizona, this became a reality. I tried to focus on school primarily, but felt myself falling into the trap of procrastination. The easiest thing to do when you’re staring at a blank screen with that dreaded blinking line urging you to write a page, a paragraph, just one word is to reach for your phone instead. In this quarantined, hopelessly antisocial mindset, I naturally turned to Instagram to fill the void. If I had an essay due, I would spend hours just scrolling through my feed, the “for you” page, or through my saved posts. I found crumbs of connection through sending memes to my close friends. I thought about posting or not posting a picture with a stupid COVID-related caption that was relatable, punny, and witty. By the time a month had gone past, I realized my mental health had taken a big hit. I lacked real social connection, spent every free moment on Instagram or YouTube, and I would find myself getting headaches from staring at a screen all day.
Before COVID began affecting my life, I liked to think that I could limit my social media usage. Instagram is really the only platform that tempts me to the point of obsession. In the past, I’ve gone through periods of “fasting” my social media accounts for a day at a time. At one point, I even gave up Instagram for Lent. However, I ran into a dilemma when I realized I needed to know trends, patterns, updates about social media if I was going to pursue a future in digital and social communications. I always tell myself that I would delete my socials if I wasn’t a social media marketing intern, an advertising student, or pursuing global connections. At this point in my life, I spend about 4 hours a day on social media platforms. In my defense, I do run multiple accounts as a Communications and Marketing Intern. However, I would be remiss if I attributed all of my social media time to purely job-related tasks. The conclusion that I’ve come to is that I miss my friends. Have you ever gone on a vacation for a week only to realize at the end of the week that you haven’t been on Instagram for days? The opposite becomes true. Now that I don’t live with my friends, study with them, spend weekends with them, I am constantly searching for easy ways to fill that gap in my life. Sometimes I find myself scrolling through my own page where I have pictures posted of my friends and I. On my page, I can see comments and faces that make me smile. It brings me back to times when I would post a picture on Instagram then urge my friends to quickly like and comment in support.
As much as we try to find solutions to online social distance learning, we must admit video chats are no replacement for the real thing. Having to deal with awkward zoom silences, bad wi-fi connection, and not being able to openly speak with peers before and after class all interfere with the comforting parts of the social classroom experience. But until then, it looks like I’ll be turning to Instagram for humor and familiar faces.
Lea Medina, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s media law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the following question: How much time do you spend using social media? Has usage gone up or down since the onset of Covid-19? Why? The class covers copyright and social media. Lea is an Advertising and Creative Writing major.
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