Our Digital Lives: One Year On

Words by Lewis Empson, Lafan Hasan, Shaniece O’keeffe and Shivika Singh
Cover image by Chris Montgomery (via Unsplash)

This March we find ourselves over a year into the Covid-19 pandemic and at the one year anniversary of what at the time we all thought would be the one and only lockdown. “Lockdown 1.0” as it is now affectionately remembered saw life in every aspect move online; working from home became the new norm, lectures moved online with cripplingly awkward seminars plagued with muted mics and internet issues, and social life followed quickly in tow with Zoom quizzes being possibly the highlight of the masses getting resourceful with tech during the lockdown. 

However, a year on and it’s all kind of lost its novelty. Normality is on the horizon but we’re not quite there yet; so for the time being we can look at how our digital lives have grown and evolved a year on from the first lockdown. We’ve got some perspectives here to see what’s changed and what digital life in lockdown has taught us:

By Lafan Hasan

It would be wrong to start this article without saying “Happy Anniversary Lockdown 1”. It’s been a full year since all of us were forced to face either ourselves or our technology to keep us sane. Games and Zoom were probably the two most essential applications that helped me through the most important aspects of my life; the social, the work and the personal. Let’s start with the social!

Zoom was definitely front, forward and center when it came to my social experiences during the first lockdown. Sure, it helped me connect with the people that had to leave all of a sudden, or my family from across the world, but the thing I enjoyed about the novelty of lockdown at the beginning was the need to connect with those that you hadn’t connected with in a while. Zoom allowed me to revive some of the friendships that I had been pondering the ending of, or helped me connect with the friend I made in third year that I coincidentally had on Instagram. I loved how there was a new type of socializing that involved meeting an old new friend because we both had the effects of time changing us and the world shutting down in common.

I might be one of the only people to admit this, but I enjoy seminars more when we’re doing them online. The removal of physical awkwardness has become a gateway for people to be more comfortable with sharing and debating things. Especially when I think of breakout rooms, it’s like magic, people immediately turn their cameras on and talk about how we all didn’t do the reading and that becomes the perfect segue to discussing whatever topic that lecture was about. Or perhaps how we were going to bluff our way through it.

Finally, I’ve grown up playing games my whole life, usually on console but sometimes on my brother’s PC. I always found myself playing games, specifically action-adventure story-packed games when I felt alone or in need of personal development that I was not yet ready to take on myself, so instead do it through a character. During lockdown I purchased Rise of the Tomb Raider and I enjoyed playing every second of it apart from the fact that my average Lenovo laptop could barely run it. I found that the  nostalgic feeling I get while playing games like this accounted for the graphics and truly was a perfect way to lift my spirits and help me develop through what I like to call post-novelty lockdown.

Online video calls have been a place to study and socialise with online seminars and catch-up chats with friends and family near and far away (photo by Surface via Unsplash).

By Shaniece O’keeffe

Online life over the past year has been one which I have struggled with. Being in my second year on a course which has very little contact hours as it is, adapting to the different style of university was a difficult one, but something we have all had to familiarise ourselves with and make our new norm for our university experience. My digital understanding has had to improve drastically in the past year. 

The majority of our university experience is online and therefore you have to keep up and improve on technological skills because that’s how we mainly communicate now and understanding this is such an important thing. The university experience and social life aspect to university have both been affected massively for me. I found my grades falling at the start of the year because of the online aspect to university, almost as if because my lectures were on Zoom, it felt like they weren’t as important as my first year and this is something I needed to quickly rid of from my mindset and attitude towards my work. Social life online can be a scary one. 

Being part of the women’s rugby team, there have been lots of amazing online socials that the team have organised, and although it has not been the same as it has been in previous years, they have been a great way to interact with the team. But for me, someone who struggles with these types of interactions, especially being new to the team, I found it harder to push myself to get involved which I can see being the case for many students alike. This is only something I can improve and as things start to change and develop in the world, hopefully these struggles get a little easier. 

Transitioning to life online has allowed us to continue working, learning and socialising in a world locked down (photo by Elena Mozhvilo via Unsplash).

By Shivika Singh

The outbreak of coronavirus pandemic brought our lives to a standstill and transitioned it in various ways. Repeated imposition of lockdowns resulted in growing isolation, distance from family and friends and growing mental health issues. However, to cope with the uncertainties, people quickly resorted to the virtual world and befriended social media like never before.

The case with me wasn’t very different too. I started remaining busy without going out. My phone started buzzing with social media notifications more than ever. Sometimes it would be a text from a friend, call from my parents living away, or some invitation to join a virtual gathering or a games night. It wasn’t ideal for sure but was definitely a way out of the negativity created by the pandemic. I started discovering many things but the affinity I developed for E-books remains special to me and I believe it would continue being an integral part of my life. For someone who was always intrigued by the smell of new books and loved the touch of poetry books, it was an immediate transition. I liked how easily accessible all my favorite books were and reading books in the library surely was a pleasure but accessing same books from the comfort of home wasn’t bad too.

However, it was never easy transitioning completely to a different way of life. Starting university during a pandemic was the most difficult task to accomplish. All my plans for freshers events never came true. Some events did shift online but it lacked interpersonal touch. It almost became impossible to make friends with people whom you only see on Zoom calls. And now that I am about to complete my first year, I definitely realise what I might have missed out on. However, there is a sense of satisfaction and productivity that my one year did not go waste. My first year of university might not have been the best in terms building social relations but was fulfilled with learning experience.