The virtual social connection fatigue

The virtual social connection fatigue

After 2 years, I think I've hit the limit of being Extremely Online.

So, it's been two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indonesia has recently left the third wave behind, neighbouring countries have started to relax some restrictions imposed during the pandemic, with some countries even looking to transition to an endemic phase.

Of course, out of precaution, many people would choose to remain at home for fear that another wave might hit. I for one remain in this category, but it's a slightly more complicated story than that.

Normally, I'd be fine with staying home for prolongued periods of time. Remote working was quite a privilege to have. It has been treating me so well, and if I were to switch jobs, the top priority on my list of expected benefits is the ability to work remotely. Also, since I am Extremely Online and mostly hang out on the internet, I always take maximum advantage of social networking apps like Discord to connect with my friends online.

But as of late, I've started to realised that I feel more and more distant from my friends and colleagues. As a result, my productivity had slumped. I wonder if it's just me, or is there something with connecting virtually that doesn't work for me?

Out of curiousity, I started a poll for people who work from home and have been stuck at home almost every day since the start of the pandemic. I asked them a simple question, how often do you miss going outside to work remotely, or connect with friends or colleagues physically?

Out of 131 responses, the results looked like this. And I was somewhat surprised. I guess my Twitter circle somewhat resonated with what I feel.

Contrary to what many people think, I used to be a rather outgoing person during the pandemic. Despite my introverted brain means I keep to myself most of the time, I often cherish the time I get to go outside and connect with my friends/colleagues. Sure, outside of that I mostly connect with people online, but back then it was kept at a balance.

As much as working from home has been helpful to me, what I enjoyed even more is working from anywhere. Sometimes, when I got bored of going to the office, or when there's too much interference in the house, I prefer some place outside of the office and my own home. Maybe like a coffee shop, or other places.

And outside of work, just going for activities with friends and colleagues, like having lunch/dinner, going for healthy exercises like jogging in the evening, and just hanging out together, feel like a refreshing experience.

It's incredible how technology allows us to connect even when we're separated for one reason or another. But what I realised more and more recently is that asynchronous communication is amazing for work context, but it can't fully replace physical social contact.

Maybe that's why - from my personal experience - I've been feeling miserable over the past few months or so. I just never had the chance to go out and move my body over the 2 years I've been cooped up at home since the start of the pandemic. And since I have long been craving that social need as well, I've also been feeling more and more detached from people thanks to just not having that social contact.

So now that I've gotten this all out of my chest, now you know why I set up that poll the other day.

I've started to rectify this as of recently though. I've pledged myself to go outside of my house and exercise more every week, I've tried to cut down on some responsibilities that felt overwhelming to me, and take life one day at a time.

We'll see how this goes.

Resi Respati

Web developer based in Jakarta, Indonesia.