Too much Zoom: Who knew life under lockdown would be so damn busy?

Craving distraction, I stuffed my schedule full of virtual get-togethers — and now I have no time to myself

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published May 24, 2020 6:00AM (EDT)

Young man distracted while on video call from his home during lockdown (Getty Images)
Young man distracted while on video call from his home during lockdown (Getty Images)

Mostly, the introvert vs. extrovert wars of the internet leave me cold, and not just because I grow swiftly irritated with people who mistake minor social preferences for having a personality. But it's also because I don't really see myself in this binary. Anyone who has been to a party with me would certainly believe that I'm a classic extrovert, chattering away happily with all sorts of folks. But at home, I'm delighted to snuggle up with a book for hours or listen to music on my own while immersing myself in time-intense kitchen projects. Even on the Myers-Briggs personality test (which people should really be more skeptical about), I tend to split right down the middle, rating as neither an "introvert" or an "extrovert." 

I suspect my experience is actually quite common, and that plenty of people don't fit neatly into these categories. I hope, therefore, that a lot of people can relate to an unexpected dilemma of living through this pandemic under lockdown. On one hand, I feel incredibly fortunate to have a lot of friends, and therefore lots of opportunities to stay social via online chats and Zoom parties. On the other hand, I'm starting to wonder when I'm actually going to get to enjoy this solitude we've all been promised would be our daily companion during the pandemic. 

I confess that when I looked at my calendar for Memorial Day weekend and saw that I had nothing social scheduled all day on Saturday, I breathed a small sigh of relief. I had a whole day to myself — no online games, no post-dinner drinks, nothing. I can sit and read a book if I want to. I can take a long bike ride. I can goof off in my garden with my cat. I can be alone with my thoughts. I can catch up on podcasts. I can finally finish a video game, something I thought I'd spend most of this quarantine doing and have barely done at all. 

I swear, I've been more social in the past couple of months than I have been in years. I've been reaching out to friends far away and doing Zoom chats with them. Role-playing games, already a robust hobby I share with my partner, have become all-consuming as bored friends want to start more of them all the time. (I'm currently playing in five or six separate campaigns, twice what I had going on before the pandemic.) I want to stay in touch with people, if only to reassure myself that they're doing OK in a time when none of us is really doing all that OK. 

Perhaps, more than anything, I crave distraction. I following the social media discourse about watching movies or binge-watching TV, but for whatever reason, doing either of those makes me feel wiped out most of the time. Games, conversations with friends: These activities require a different kind of attention than trying to follow a fictional story on a TV screen for hours at a time, and for whatever reason, that's the form of attention I'm happy to give. I'm grateful for every moment I get to have in these virtual social sessions, as aggravating as the tech can be. I suspect other people feel the same way, which is why there's been such a crush of online get-togethers. 

But it's come at the expense of having some quiet time to myself. This past week alone, I've had four role-playing games, one happy hour and a quiz night. In the past, I never felt much conflict between my desire to hang out with people and my desire to sit at home picking my toenails with a fancy mud mask on while I listened to "My Favorite Murder." Most people in normal times are busy with work and family stuff and there's just less time to play games or sit around drinking wine with friends on a weeknight.

Now we have nothing but time, and we're filling that time up with each other — which is great, and often exhausting. I find that on those nights when my partner and I have nothing scheduled, we retreat to separate corners of the house instead of hanging out together, grateful for the quiet and the solitude. I'm lucky to have someone who needs that as much as I do — having a conflict about how much time to spend together, on top of everything else, would be the kind of stress no one needs at a time like this. 

I don't need to figure out a new way to find balance, because this strange interlude will be over eventually and, odds are, I'll feel some nostalgia for the time when I spoke to friends constantly, as we sought ways to hide away from the pain the real world induces in us. I'm not even complaining: I know I'm lucky to have so many great folks in my life. I've been truly lonely in the past, and wouldn't wish that on a soul.

But man, who knew that quarantine life would be so busy? When this is all over, most people have their plans to go to parties or concerts or bars or museums or even the library. I plan to do all those things too, but the honest-to-God truth is that my first post-lockdown act of self-care will be to shut myself up in a room, all by myself, and use the blissful silence of a reborn world to finally finish a round of my stupid video game. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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