Are you seeing too many posts with captions #throwback, throwback to when we could meet our friends, head out for dinners? Tired of seeing pictures from their vacation to Venice and Paris with hashtags #prayfortheirrecovery? What does one feel on seeing these posts while being quarantined? Is the ‘ideal lifestyle’ only dictated by one section of people? Or, the extroverts as we call them.
Now some may ask, what if I don’t want to throwback? What if I don’t have any glamorous past pictures to post and flaunt and have all my followers go ‘OMG I miss this too!?’ What if my life was always as plain as this? Like gloop. Does that mean my life is boring? Or that I’m a boring person? I could be a vibrant person all right, with just nothing to flaunt on my Instagram feed. I probably don’t have an aesthetic window and a perfectly set table where I can cross my legs with a book and a cup of coffee and post a picture. I only have a grilled window overlooking another grilled window of my neighbour. So what, my presence is not important enough on social media?
This complex is nothing new to social media validation. But like they say, an idle mind is a devil’s workshop, right? The complex seems to aggravate in these times as people, inundated by social media posts, start thinking if their life is worth it.
Let’s face it – we are all having existential crisis. Instagram and Facebook are very peculiar and cleverly designed places. It has an infinite scrolling mechanism which unassumingly sucks you into scrolling hundreds of pages of updates on what other people are doing in life.
There are 326 million social media users in our country. Now, imagine this whole lot confined to their homes and having the entire day to indulge in scrolling with nothing else to do. Subconsciously, you start comparing, gaping and engaging in voyeurism. In a domino effect, this ends up making you feel inept.
Cook, workout, click, post, repeat
People are trying different things with the time they have during quarantine. Right from mainstream activities like cooking, working out, painting to creating virtual art, they are flaunting their ‘productivity’ levels on social media with alluring videos and pictures. There are so many memes on how everyone is going to come out of this quarantine as a social media influencer, a master chef or a fitness freak. On a serious note, how healthy is this parameter of ‘productivity’? Is it possible for everyone to live up to the expectations of creating that picture-perfect Dalgona coffee or nailing that single-hand push up? Constantly being ambushed by these posts, certain people feel that they are outcasts.
“I feel like such a loser when I see stories of people cooking or doing anything productive. It has turned out to be some kind of a competition now on who is being more productive. It is all for show off and not actually to kill time. I write a lot in my journal and that is my skill, but I can’t post it, right? Does that mean I am not talented?,” said 22-year-old Shreya who has been quarantined for almost two months now due to her recent travel to the States.
Several studies say that high social media usage leads to the feeling of loneliness as a lot of social comparison happens and it is easy to conclude that other people’s lives are much cooler and better off than yours. This can particularly be dangerous given that several thousands are tackling loneliness and depression amidst the lockdown. “This lockdown has taken a toll on my mental health as I am quarantined with an abusive mother who reminds me every day of how ugly and incompetent I am to be a wife. Adding to this, whenever I see other people doing so many things, I get so intimidated and end up feeling worthless,” said Preethi* (name changed).
On the upside, this could be the ideal situation for many who never had the time to explore their talents, create their blog and post their thoughts, make their account public, and give it a shot at fame. “There are people who are genuinely experimenting their talents too. But some of them who were never associated with fitness or culinary trends are now posting work out and cooking videos, like wannabes,” said Dhiraj.
“I recently saw a few girls post singing videos and asking for song requests just because many others are starting pages. I am no Shreya Ghoshal but their singing is horrible and how do I let them know? My only weapon is to unfollow or use the mute button,” laughs Shreya.
However, some others have a completely different way of looking at the same thing. They ask what is insane about it? “It is good for people to be doing what they love and posting what they want. Not only is it a distraction or inspiration for them but it could be for others too. We are all just bored right now and social media is an interactive platform that bridges the gap,” said Andrea who actively tries out new recipes, recreates classic paintings and post them regularly on Instagram.
Productivity or self-satisfaction?
There seemed to be a recurrent theme of ‘productivity’ amongst everyone who spoke. Almost like the value of each one’s quarantine was measured with this invisible productivity level. Hence, people running the rat race try to fit in.
Kavin, an artist and footballer called out the usage of the term productivity itself. “Productivity is an industrialized word and unfit to be used in these times. You can call it self-satisfaction or accomplishment rather. If I watch a whole series on Netflix which I’ve been putting away for a long time and someone else cooks a meal, how can the two be compared for productivity levels?” he says.
There were even posts circulating on social media which said, “If you don’t come out of this quarantine with a new skill, more knowledge, better health and fitness, you never lacked time, you lacked discipline. The impending question is, why should we in the first place? Why should we be expected to produce or prove anything great during a global pandemic? An invisible organism has literally brought the world down to its knees and some people are still wrapping their minds around that.
“We are all dealing with a global pandemic and we don’t know what lies on the other side. So, it is important to not fall prey to the word ‘productivity’ which itself is a stigma. The blame lies nowhere. People who influence on social media very well can, but on the downside some may develop Fear of Missing out or FOMO which is a social anxiety where people tend to compare their lifestyle with others and end up feeling defeated,” said Shreya Varshini, a psychologist. She added that it was important to not give in to social media or peer pressure and continue with whatever routine an individual is comfortable with.
“Quarantine is my guilty pleasure”
There is already a set thought process that pushes one into resenting the lockdown. But mind you, a situation such as this is what several other people, or introverts as we call them know to handle with flair. This could literally be their perfect situation of zero socialisation, in the comfort of their own homes and privilege. Enjoying quarantine however, is an unpopular opinion given that you are judged for not empathising with the people dying outside.
“This is like my guilty pleasure, I thrive in situations like this where I am not required to step out. It is less pressure now because I don’t have to cancel plans with people to stay at home and game. I wouldn’t mind living this way the entire year,” said Nithin, an accountant who is enjoying this pause from everyday chaos.
Just like Nithin some of us are not necessarily part of any race to come out glorious and reinvented from this lockdown. There are some people still figuring out this situation, some battling the negativity from reading all the bad news, some doing the bare minimum of protecting themselves and their family from the deadly virus and some with just no reason but chilling and enjoying the quarantine with absolutely no guilt. And that is all okay. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.