I once watched a Youtube video about a guy who spent an entire week in Virtual Reality (VR). Everything he did, from eating to social interaction, was done through a digital lens, his world made entirely of pixels for seven days. Throughout this experiment, the Youtuber would interact with other people through virtual chat rooms, movie theatres, and even yoga classes. The digital world he was living in was teeming with possibility, and yet for the duration of the video I found myself thinking, “well that looks awful.” Following his experience, the Youtuber noted that without realizing it he had been missing the outside world, from the feeling of the wind on his face to the smell of the grass in his yard. The digital world, however beautifully rendered, was in no way comparable to real life.
Throughout lockdown it is easy to feel a similar way. Classes, meetings, and even social gatherings are suddenly held on Zoom calls, with all the disembodied heads reminding me of the movie WALL-E. As vaccinations have spread over the United States, and things have begun opening up more and more, I have only recently begun to realize the effect of such an isolated existence. I never truly realized how much I relied on hearing people’s voices through the space between us, and not through headphones; how much I enjoy seeing my family when I can give them a hug, and not send them an emoji; and a million other things that a video call can’t encapsulate.
The future remains uncertain, but so long as things continue to gradually return to some semblance of normalcy, don’t forget to embrace the potency of the real world. If you are feeling claustrophobic or isolated, do whatever is within your capacity to find opportunities to experience the world in full, not through screens or microphones, but our irreplaceable reality.