A Digital Hermit and Surviving Covid

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A Digital Hermit and Surviving Covid

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For billions of people around the world, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a major disruption in their lives. Jobs either put you at risk, go online, or cease to exist. People's schedules change dramatically as they confront new challenges like working from home.

However, for a much smaller subset of people of whom I am a part, life during the pandemic has changed very little. I am what one could call a digital hermit. Even before the pandemic started, I was the kind of person who already had all my groceries delivered with Instacart, and spent a vast majority of my time cloistered in my apartment on my computer. While I was at NDSU, I would leave my apartment most days to attend class, but even that was not universally true. During the summers I took on extra courses in order to complete my undergraduate degree faster, and it just so happens at NDSU that most summer classes were online. That meant for me that during the summer I spent not just most of my time, but all of my time in my apartment, going weeks or potentially months without seeing anyone else in person. When Covid hit and everything transferred online, I was particularly prepared to survive that situation.

While most people began to whither away from lack of contact, or perhaps too much close quarters contact, I was in my zone. I survived socially by communicating with friends daily over Discord, a popular program not unlike Slack for hosting private chat rooms including both voice communication and text channels. Discord is primarily focused on video games, and that is indeed how me and my friends spent our time. Transitioning to online classes was only difficult to begin with due to most professors I had being unfamiliar with online teaching tools, while I was well-versed in maintaining a schedule, checking assignments, and doing what needed to be done to more independently manage my school time.

My experience surviving prolonged isolation even before the pandemic via the wonders of digital technology and the internet reflect the means by which many people had to adjust their lives and the ways this era of history will be remembered. Digital archives such as this have enabled the collection of stories and other data to study in the future from disparate locations and backgrounds, this one written by me in the comfort of my own bedroom. Collaboration between professionals using Slack and other platforms is a more serious reflection of me and my friend's private Discord server, over which I rule as a tyrant by imposing at this point 58 arbitrary and often contradictory rules.

While I have survived isolation as a digital hermit, it is important to remember that I do so because of all the people who cannot do the same. I am incredibly fortunate to be attending college and surviving just fine without working a job, which the same can not be said for many other people. Even something as basic as getting groceries for me is reliant on underpaid, underappreciated, and certainly exploited Instacart employees, who put themselves at risk so that I can get the Oreo cookies I crave and they can keep a roof over their heads. Me and my friends can keep ourselves entertained by jumping in the Discord server and cracking some skulls together from all over the country in the video game Vermintide 2, but we also acknowledge that many people do not have it so easy.

For me, the end of lockdown is more daunting than the beginning. I have enjoyed my time as a more socially acceptable recluse, and yet there will come a time in which I will need to go back out into the world to attend classes and other important events in person. Whether that time comes sooner rather than later, I will continue to be a digital hermit, though perhaps one who gets some fresh air more often.

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This item was submitted on January 20, 2021 by Adam Peretz using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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