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The Era Of Social Distancing Has Made Social Media A Lifeline For Connection

I've never TikTok'd or Marco Polo'd but now I feel the pressure is strong to keep up.

Human Interest

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I keep my social dealings pretty basic—Facebook for family, Instagram for friends, WhatsApp for travel. I had an extremely brief run on Snapchat until Instagram Stories became a thing and I was able to rid myself of one less app on my phone. Now under the current circumstances we're in (*enter* coronavirus), social media has become a lifeline to the rest of the world, and I'm being bombarded with multiple requests from everyone I know to join apps to connect.

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While I'm grateful for a network of folks that want to make sure they see my face and hear from me, it's also overwhelming, not to mention it's taking a toll on my phone's storage. I've never TikTok'd or Marco Polo'd but now I feel the pressure is strong to keep up. My social anxiety doesn't translate well on social media either. Sharing updates on what I'm eating, where I'm going, and who I'm with kind of seems like something my mom would have begged for when I was 15, and at nearly 30, I prefer a good ole phone call or text over anything else. But quarantine life is different, because now I don't see anyone's face, ever, except for my mom who finally got her wish and knows exactly what I'm eating (whatever's in the kitchen), where I'm going (to the living room), and who I'm with (her).

As someone who has always streamlined their social media, but also wants to stay in touch, here's my take on navigating these quarantine-popular apps.

Zoom

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I was vaguely familiar with the video conferencing platform Zoom because prior to the world ending I was interviewing for jobs and this was the form of communication most companies preferred. It cut out having to travel to various offices around New York City and only required me to wear a blouse, most of the time paired with sweats. These meetings were usually setup by some HR executive who probably had a certification in Zoom practices, because using Zoom with friends is way trickier.

The main reason being that Zoom requires planning, therefore taking away any spontaneity out of your virtual linkup. Setting up a Zoom chat went something like this…

I sent a text asking, "Hey, who's free Thursday at 8pm for a girl's night in on Zoom?" Everyone was free as I suspected because, hello, quarantine. I texted meeting info with a note for everyone to look cute for each other. Thursday at 8:08pm no one including myself was on the call, because even in quarantine I'm running late. I texted asking if everyone is hopping on and one person replied. I logged on looking about as cute as one possibly could in an oversized tee, but luckily my pal had on the same "outfit" ignoring my previous request. We chit-chatted trying to save the tea for when our missing friend arrived, but she never did. She didn't respond until the next day because she fell asleep, probably of boredom. We rescheduled for a Zoom brunch at 2pm that Saturday. I was five episodes deep into Netflix's Tiger King trying to solve a murder when I realized it's 2:02pm. I looked at my phone, no one texted. I continued my investigation on the couch until both my friends backed out because of [insert excuse here] and I finally took a well-deserved nap after all my hard detective work. I woke up two hours later to a text from another friend I invited to join the "brunch" in a separate text thread asking what happened.

The takeaway? HR executive with Zoom certification is not in my future. Despite all the kinks I hit, I'll still be re-scheduling our linkup via Zoom. I appreciate that there's no messaging or posts to keep up with on Zoom so you can use when you want and forget about it after.

Marco Polo

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Speaking of keeping up, Marco Polo is an app that's kind of like leaving video voicemails for one person or a group. My church friend convinced me to download this when quarantine rules went into effect as a way to keep up with the other outreach team members. I was into it that week recording a greeting to the other eight members, checking in during the Sunday service live-stream and seeing my church friend's play-by-play as she watched The Handmaid's Tale for the first time, in the separate chat we started. It was all fun and games, and Jesus until a week later when I was 70 unwatched messages deep and my church pal was searching for me in our one-on-one thread. Oops!

Never-ending group chats were always a turn off for me, and essentially that's what Marco Polo becomes when it's a bunch of people. I might put off watching one message which eventually piles up into many until I feel SO guilty that I decide to put off watching any altogether. My social anxiety manifests differently and in this instance although I felt completely comfortable with my friend who initially invited me into the group, I didn't have personal relationships with the others. It just felt strange giving updates on my life to those who weren't a part of it, especially during these uncertain times when my updates aren't always cheery. I say leave the Marco Polo chats for close friends and family and if you want to continue a conversation, pick up a phone.

Houseparty

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Houseparty is probably my favorite quarantine-trendy app for face-to-face time. I'm a 90s kid at heart and HP gives me all the AIM feels just with video. It follows the same format of letting people know when you're logged on, or in HP's case "in the house". It even takes it one step further by showing friends who log on if you're already videoing with someone which is a little invasive for me, but not so invasive if you're curious to see who is talking to who because what better way to pass the time than by cyber-stalking? You can lock your chat room if you want, but there's no fun in that.

I enjoy Houseparty mostly because of the games—trivia, Heads Up, Quick Draw and something called Chips and Guac that I have yet to try. It's much more enjoyable than just staring at someone's face if you're all talked out. I had a game night with a friend which consisted of us sipping drinks in our respective homes, he DJ'd, and we played games till I woke up on my living room floor at 3am covered in Oreo crumbs.

I should mention that at some point I snuck away from game night to munch on Oreos because that's what I do after a night out and that was the closest experience I've had to "going out" in weeks. Houseparty and tequila combined will pop any social media introvert's cherry, just save the shenanigans for a Friday night.

The Verdict:

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A phone call is still my preferred method of communication unless you think I might want to see your face (aka you're my Grandma, my BFF or trying to be my husband), but we're only a month into this quarantine thing so that might change. There's still plenty of time for me to become a Zoom certified HR exec (I'm pretty sure I made that up), to watch those 70 Marco Polo videos and reply with "LOL", and I may or may not have a secret TikTok account that will go public my next tequila-filled Houseparty chat. Or not.

Social media your own way, not because you feel it's some sort of quarantine-mandated rule. The ones that matter most will find a way to reach you.

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Amira Unplugged / MTV

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Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

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