The right to be offline

It's been almost 2 months now that our whole life has been transferred online. Although most of us have been using online tools for communication for years now, this type of communication was almost just an enhancement or an add on to our everyday lives.

This new post-COVID19 breakout reality makes us realize how much different the societal rules or to say the «savoir-faire» of online communication is. Everyone expects you to have plenty of time for responding, from friend messages to work emails, everyone thinks that since you have to be at your home you have plenty of time, so they have the right to flood you with numerous emails or messages regardless of the time when actually, the reality of time in quarantine is much more different than the one in normal everyday life, let's call it “the pre-covid19” life.

Most people tend to think that time at home now is the same as the time that you were spending at home before. But the reality is so much more different. Body and brain function is different when you are isolated during the most days of the week or you don't go out at all. And maybe that is why in prisons being in isolation which means you are not allowed to go outside or speak with anyone is a punishment.

Truth is that isolation from isolation really differs, it is much more different to be quarantined in a small apartment without a view and much more different to live in isolation in a house with a garden and your loved ones.

Although the current quarantine measures in Hungary were not really very strict, which means that you can still go out if you want, all these online communication tools seem to impose on us the stricter measures of all. The punishment of always being online and available to everyone.

From online classes to friend messages and all kinds of emails that we are constantly flooded in an almost hourly basis that has to be responded or red, it now seems a kind of luxury for many of us to take a shower uninterrupted by a new notification or walk to the grocery shop or even walking up the stairs. It is now a luxury not to have to respond to anyone or to be offline, it is a luxury to have time to process information or feelings until the next trivial notification pops up. Maybe this is how social status will be measured in a few years when every “white-collar worker” will be asked to work from home. The status will be measured of how many times someone with a degree and a job had the opportunity to go out for a while.

Personally, the first days of quarantine were a kind of relief from always having somewhere to go, and a chance to dive into silly Hollywood apocalyptic movies and precooked fries. This was the fun part, you could easily sit at home watching the and of civilization, on-screen while you made parallelisms with what you were living. But the fun quickly vanished after 2 weeks. Staying most of the week inside, due to the online lessons and not have to follow the small ritual of preparing my self to go to a different space, to have a lesson or a conversation with fellow students, made the whole experience of studying abroad completely dull. Assignments and lessons that were supposed to be interesting, fun, and performative became more and more boring until everything became a burden. An ongoing fight between laziness, procrastination, deadlines, and emails that keep you always connected.

We tend to relate spaces with the action that we do there. It would be odd to have to go praying in a supermarket, watch a movie in a gym or work out in a restaurant. Space, function, and memory go together, and space is never neutral. So, how easy is it to cram your whole life, work, rest, and entertainment in a small space designed to be your refuge for a few hours? It is not. Habits fight each other and guess which wins, the one that is easier to be followed.

On top of that, the easiness of communication and the numerous applications and platforms ask you every day to familiarise yourself with the next hip communication app, the next trendy platform the one with that tasteful, colorful illustrations that make everything seem so cool, young and cheerful. All our reality is now on a screen. Maybe the next pandemic should not be an organic virus but one that doesn't let our devices connect with the online servers.

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