By Andrew Garas
This past week, I was officially diagnosed with COVID-19 after an unexpected exposure at a band practice I was at. I know no one expects to have gotten COVID-19, but I was especially not as I have received both doses of the vaccine and was far past the two-week incubation period. However, I was unexpectedly thrown into a ten-day quarantine, unable to leave my room. Because of this, I have had a lot of time to reflect on how I personally interact with my technology usage. With practically nothing to do except stare at a screen, I have tried to take my own mental health to task and figure out the best ways to combat FOMO and use social media healthily.
With the vaccine becoming much more widely available, many people are essentially getting back out into the world, and also feel comfortable sharing it on their social media. I have seen people going to bigger parties, concerts, and just generally feeling more comfortable out and about. While I sat at home these last ten days, I couldn’t help but be jealous. I kept thinking to myself: “why me?”. It almost became a blame game – especially since I had to miss days at work, school events, and social gatherings I had planned. I started to blame myself and get increasingly depressed that I was stuck in one place while everyone lived their lives. I had developed a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and having my phone attached at the hip was certainly not helping.
These feelings lasted for the first few days – but after sulking just a bit too much and reaching a certain peak of self-loathing, I decided to try and practice self-compassion to help myself get through the quarantine, and hopefully take it with me after I’m out. According to Durlofsky, self-compassion and self-love have been proven to help us “lead lively and enriching lives” (source). Because of this, I thought it would be a good time to try a few tips and tricks to see if they worked for me.
What I Tried:
- Casual Exercise: I am not a huge fitness junkie, but I decided to take up some simple, easy exercises in quarantine every day that I woke up. The exercises helped me feel less sluggish as well as took me away from the screen for a bit. In the article, Remedies for the Distracted Mind, they discuss how they believe exercise (as well as meditation) can lead to decreased feelings of FOMO, but there is still a lack of research on the topic thus far (source).
- Fully Engaged Viewing: I am a huge film junkie and decided to watch at least one film everyday in my Covid quarantine (I ended up averaging around 2-4 a day…). When I watched these films, I picked longer films that had been burning a hole in my watchlist. When I watched them I fully turned off my phone and placed it elsewhere in the room to stay completely engaged with the content. There is something about being lost in a 3+ hour film with no distractions that is extremely rewarding to me and certainly helped me make it through this quarantine. In Durlofsky’s book Logged in and Stressed Out, she says one of the best things to do to mediate your digital life and real life is to “set virtual boundaries” (source). I set the boundary to completely engross myself in the world of the art of film, and it made viewing a lot better and more engaging. While the TV is still a digital landscape technically, I would argue film viewing in of itself is an analytical activity (at least for me), more than one I would use to procrastinate like I would with a Youtube video.
- Facetime: In Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation, she states: “Face-to-face conversation is the most human- and humanizing – thing we do” (source). I’ve always thought this and I knew having no human contact for 10 days would be tough. In a normal living situation, I always used texts for shorter, more concise communication. However, since being locked in my room, I decided to partake in more Facetime calls with friends. I think I averaged more Facetime calls with friends this last week than in the last six months. The conversations were fruitful too, making me value our face-to-face conversations much more than I did before.
Overall, I would certainly not wish getting the virus upon anyone, and it was certainly not a pleasant experience to say the least. But that being said, I did my best to combat FOMO in this extraordinary situation. I think I did a good job of it as well, and I will try and use these tactics now in my everyday life to reinvigorate some of my relationships, stay engaged and use social media healthily.