I Showed Up For a Grand Total of Two Digital Events the Entire Pandemic
I miss being at live shows so much, and am officially sick of sitting in front of my computer.
Day after day, the invites pile up in my personal and business inboxes alongside the infinite stream that is my Twitter feed.
Come to the virtual version of this conference you otherwise would’ve traveled to attend!
Join this Twitch stream!
There’s an important civic organizing meeting on Zoom, please RSVP!
Come check out my friend’s Discord server!
I haven’t made it to a single thing after April 2020. Regardless of whether I RSVP’d or not.
And let me be clear, I feel bad about it.
I want to participate in the causes I care about, like amphibian conservation and leftist fiscal policy advocacy, plus there’s a great deal of important electoral work I should get involved at the local level before I change coasts.
Livestreams from my favorite content creators were a nice little escape for me when recovering from surgery made it too difficult to go out. Digital versions of conferences make them accessible to disabled people, people who are unable to travel due to family commitments, or can’t afford live attendance.
Read: they’re all fantastic things that should remain embedded in society even if things somewhat resemble The Before Time again and house parties can just be gatherings, not super-spreader events.
But now that I have no choice but to be stuck indoors, especially in the dead of the winter where it is cruelly, disgustingly hot inside my prewar apartment but too cold outside to do anything, I stopped RSVPing for all these Zoom things unless it’s a life and death matter for my clients or a friend or family member is setting up a hangout.
Not wanting to suffer under the radiators alone is keeping me from signing up for more digital events: I swear to god, if I’m going to be marooned in The Bronx for quite a while yet, I should get a City Council term in before moving to California. My platform? Forcing all landlords, co-ops, and condo boards to get rid of radiators and replace them with thermostats like we’re in the 21st century. This pandemic is hellish enough. The radiators make our homes we pay out the ass for virtually uninhabitable for 3–4 months of the year, and we can’t just flee to places with climate control. Vote Presser on the Toadcialist Party slate for CD18: Because Fuck Those Radiators, That’s Why!
Anyway, my friends mostly stick to my Twitter DMs for that instead because we’re all overwhelmed, in different time zones, and it’s easier for us to vacillate between all-night DM sessions or just responding whenever with the occasional GIF or emoji.
But even with an end to winter in sight and getting more of my productivity back as a result: my C-PTSD triggers have been on edge with this nonstop sequestering, as I marvel at how my city once vaccinated a few million people against smallpox in the matter of two weeks with no cell phones or Internet yet the COVID vaccine is being treated like a PS5 with a solid gold Nintendo cartridge and everyone is fucking dying.
My brain switches between being hyperfocused on my work to being lucky if I can get a few lines out or respond to my development team a few hours after they post updates on the game’s Trello board.
I’m in an endless feedback loop on Twitter because I’m starved for conversation with my close friends and the phenomenon I dubbed “greater social orbit”. Where they may be acquaintances I’ve known from various slices of real life of The Before Time, or we’ve been mutuals on Twitter but do not DM and are not close.
I’m able to show up on time for calls with my clients and prospects, but socially, I miss talking on the phone. But despite missing it, sometimes I’m so short-circuited that all I can do when a friend messages me is respond with a GIF or two before I’m back to my normally verbose self.
It’s like being afraid of jumping into a swimming pool because of the impact and freezing your internal organs like an Omaha Steak: but you do it, the initial impact’s awkward, and then it feels great.
But wait, why is everyone trying to me on Discord at the same exact time? The same day? After I just talked to a client on the phone this morning and banged out three deliverables for different clients while trying to work on my own stuff and toadpost? Now there’s TWO more things? What am I, some kind of wizard?!
I miss committing to things like punk shows, DSA meetings, game cons, and just seeing a friend for coffee. Those RSVPs forced me to get out of the house, something I was all too happy to do.
I miss telling that person I just spoke to on Gamasutra or Discord what I’m wearing as I’m frantically waving on some street corner of San Francisco, London, or Chicago. The thrill of randomly making a new gentleman friend through my adventures. Or better yet, that excited feeling where you don’t know if that acquaintance from that game dev event or Twitter is going to become a close friend. We should totally tell people when we get platonic “friend crushes” on them. This should be a new norm for The After Time.
Hell, I’d even take suffering under NJ Transit to go see my family where I only deal with its normal suckage instead of having to do calculus of “This car has fewer people but this guy left the bathroom without washing his hands and is using that mask as a chin strap.”
So if all the stress and trauma has been like cramming your brain into a Vitamix, you’re not alone.
Some of us can cope by keeping ourselves busy with the digital overwhelm. Others completely shut down. For those of us who have traumagenic illnesses like C-PTSD, you may need to be gentler with us because we have very little control over how this disorder completely wracks our bodies and how often we have good days. I’ve noticed my intervals have grown shorter as the vaccine rollout continues to be botched.
Even as I feel bad with the unanswered emails and DMs that pile up — whereas in other threads, I wait for a reply like constantly refreshing my PPP application status — I remember that we are going through trauma as a nation as every level of government utterly failed us. This is just how I’m dealing with it.
And if you’re overwhelmed, and feel like you just can’t keep up with all this shit, you’re not the only one.
But as much as it sucks, especially if you’ve got a radiator from hell or no heat, your lack of physical contact still helped save someone’s life.