Feeling screen fatigue? You are not alone. After close to a year of doing everything virtually, many are taking any chance they get to reclaim an offline connection

When the COVID-19 pandemic kept us indoors, we started a virtual life. Everything we did was virtual — meeting, travelling, attending weddings and even entertainment. With OTT platforms, our weekends were booked for movie marathons.

After nearly a year of leading a virtual life, however, the saturation can be seen. Everyone wants to step out to meet friends, travel home to meet family, and more than anything just resume the pre-COVID life.

The urge to lead a non-virtual life is so strong that it is making grown men and women cook up alibis at work and go out on long drives and picnic with friends. Rajesh K (name changed) says he is mocked by his friends, but “that’s too small a price to pay for the joys of being outdoors for a few hours. We follow all safety precautions even when out. It is just a drive with my best friend.”

Large herd of cattle rests in a field at Veltoor village of Wanaparthy district on August 05, 2020.  | Photo Credit: G_RAMAKRISHNA

Hyderabad-based artist couple Sukka Karuna and Sudhakar, who went back to live in their village in Wanaparthy district, say instead of living connected virtually, the couple decided to stay connected with their family in real life. Karuna says, “We chose not to do virtual or live shows through phone or a computer. In the village, we got a fresh perspective of our lives and what we are living for. That wouldn’t have been possible virtually.”

Leading a virtual life has its share of hardships. While one cannot shut down from work, one can do so with OTT platforms. Jamini Sarma, a teacher in Guwahati, says she signed out of all OTT platforms because the excessive screen time gave her dry eyes. Jamini says, “I am taking a break from viewing series and movies. I keep my video calls with friends short because I spend a great deal of time on online classes. To be able to stay connected virtually during the lockdown was a blessing, but I don’t want to abuse it. I took my dry eyes as a cue to limit my virtual presence.”

What about the next gen?

Younger people, however seem to be confused about where to begin. Sohini Sen, a media professional from Chennai, says, “The biggest decision was to where do I step out. So I started with early morning walks and picking up a vegetable or two on my way back home. Then I began grocery shopping. During the lockdown, I had hardly stepped out of my gate. The fear was too much to risk anything. Finally, I even drove to Puducherry with a friend. I missed doing these small things and was tired of hanging out virtually. Thankfully no one decided to get married among my friends or I would have cried at the thought of attending their virtual wedding.”

Though a lot of us are eager to get detached virtually, it is not without a thought on safety. Raksha Saraf, a student of Architecture, says, “I stepped into a mall after 11 months and I wasn’t sure what to feel. Months of online shopping for groceries, stationery and clothes made me feel like an alien at a mall. I was happy to be out to look at structures for inspiration on work perspective. How much [Architecture] can one learn from simply looking at photos and videos? Real-time observation is a different ball game.” The changing urban landscape of some areas tells her, “a lot of people worked, while we stayed connected virtually”.

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