What to Do If Everyone Is Zooming Without You and Other Social (Distancing) Anxieties

R. Eric Thomas
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From ELLE

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These days everyone is doing "internet"! While millions across the country are practicing social distancing and staying at home (an ethical imperative), hot new trends are popping up across the newly populous digital space. The word on everyone's lips is "conference call access code"! All your favorite influencers are "buffering"! No one can stop talking about "can you mute your mic, Frank?" What an exciting time! Without the ability to be physically close, people have found new ways of connecting through video-conferencing tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Sliding Into DMs. What was once a space dominated by virtual work meetings for people in expensive clothes who say things like "Can we check in on the progress at the Hong Kong office?" and "what time is it in Zurich?" is now flush with digital happy hours, dinner parties, game nights, and A Very Serious Meeting to Discuss Whether A Friend Should Try Bangs.

But, as with any social gathering, the thing that connects us can also be the thing that makes us feel disconnected. It's easy to imagine that all your friends are laughing it up in some glamorous Zoom party while you refresh your inbox waiting for an invite that isn't coming. Why would you imagine this? I don't know—personally I like to vary my anxiety spirals, but to each their own. The fact is, all of this digital connection might prompt new versions of age-old questions. And I am here to help! Here's some questions you may be pondering and some answers that have not been vetted by professionals.

Should I organize a Zoom happy hour?

Literally do whatever you want. Organize a virtual event, make up capricious rules, set a dress code, mute everyone and sing the entirety of Cats. We're under digital Marshall law (that's the thing where you act like it's Black Friday at Marshall's). One of the things I am finding most successful is randomly sending celebrities the Zoom access codes for online events. I know they're not busy. Just sitting in their mansions, learning the words to "Imagine". They'll welcome the distraction. So, if you've been wishing you could stare into a video screen and chat with Little Richard, now is your chance.

Someone challenged me to do 10 push-ups. What do I do?

Okay, first of all, you need to report this to the police. This is a ransom note. This weekend, thousands received videos of their friends doing push-ups and then "tagging" others to do the same. Authorities are still looking into what this "tagging" is but I'm just going to get in front of this thing by declaring that I don't like it, I don't understand it, and I don't trust it. If someone comes into your digital space demanding that you do physical exercise or learn a dance and then videotape yourself doing it, you need to ask "where's my check?" You're a fitness influencer now. Know your worth.

What do I do if I am the only person watching someone's livestream?

One of the great things about this moment and the prevalence of social media is the ability to "go live." It's amazing that, for eons, we have not been live but now, with the click of a button, we are! A nation of Pinocchios suddenly blessed with existence by a front-facing camera. But, of course, that prompts the philosophical question: if an influencer goes live on the 'gram and no one is there to see it, were they live at all? All live broadcasts without an audience are technically considered dress rehearsals and cannot be judged. However, the minute one person clicks into the live, it becomes an event! If that one person is you, this can quickly become awkward.

A live broadcast where you're the only audience member has big Marina Abramovic energy and sometimes that's just not where you are, spiritually, at the moment. You're like "I just logged on to see someone make a tater tot waffle or something and now I'm staring at an old coworker's face as they ask me personal questions about my day?" If you are the sole audience member of a livestream and they start engaging directly with you, Quarantine Guild rules state that they have officially made you a co-star and you are entitled to ask, once again, "where's my check?"

Should I clean my apartment before a Zoom happy hour?

Absolutely not. Don't adjust a single thing. Try to stack your dirty dishes so they fit into the background of your video. Is this a happy hour or a cry for help? Why not both! You should investigate performing costume changes during various Zoom calls, both professional and social. Shake things up. Consider a hat!

Why does everyone else's dinner look so good?

Honestly, this is an evergreen question. We've been inside our individual homes for over a week and suddenly half your friends are Giada De Laurentiis. Where was all this good lighting ministry before, y'all? Literally everyone you know has had the capacity to make avgolemono and yet none of them have made you avgolemono and that's something you need to call a special Skype conference call about.

Is everyone Zooming without me?

Honestly, probably not. It's true the desire to hang out digitally has prompted a rush of events that can make it seem like everyone has a full calendar with entries like "lunch with Fran (home)" "Zumba with Aisha (home)", "drinks with Philip (home)", and "karaoke with the gang (home)". Last week two friends had to jump off of one hangout I was in to get to another hangout. Some of y'all are booked and busy! But most of us are just tired. It's okay if you want to reach out; take this strange time as an opportunity to reach and wide as far as you want. But it's also okay to hang back, disconnect a little, make your own avgolemono. Do what feels right. To paraphrase the Nicki Minaj in the song "Starships": Zoom who you want, and Zoom who you like/Stream all ya life there's no end in sight. But also always remember to ask "where's my check?"

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