Face-to-face education changes social dynamics

At the start of quarantine, I had a lot of extra time. Schoolwork had shrunk, and all of the extracurriculars, events and programs that I had been looking forward to my sophomore year had been canceled or downgraded. With no events to keep me busy, I found myself with a gap from a lack of school and social relationships. To fill that gap, I turned to technology, which in turn warped my ability to engage in social relationships. 


With all of that extra time, my family and I started watching every major movie franchise we could remember. For the first three months, we watched movies after movies almost nonstop on weekends. That time amounted to almost 120 hours of TV and movies, not counting random TV shows, watching YouTube or time spent surfing the web. I would have never watched anywhere near that much if not for the pandemic, but with the extra time, I thought, “Why not?” 


It turns out that while TV, social media and the internet are fantastic pastimes, they can be extremely addicting and counterproductive. The effect of constant technology and media exposure during quarantine made transitioning back to in-person school a lot harder.


When we first came back to school, my mindset had to change significantly. I didn’t have to interact with people face-to-face during quarantine, so I wasn’t used to chatting spontaneously or engaging with people who I haven’t seen in a while. So as expected, I turned to technology as an avoidance mechanism. I started hiding behind my phone during the passing periods and before classes, sheltering myself from socially uncomfortable situations. I had grown unaccustomed to the social pressures of school and allowed the quarantine to save me from dealing with the social anxiety that once plagued me.


This made life hard. Taking the “easy,” non-interactive road became increasingly difficult as I started to do more things with my peers, like extracurricular activities. If I acted distantly, that would affect the way others viewed me and worked with me, which would subsequently affect the way I worked. So, I made an effort to change how I acted. I started to initiate conversations, hang out with friends after school and work more closely with those around me.


At first, it was torture. As an introvert, I have never been outgoing or socially confident. I was completely comfortable with how I was. However, just being engaged made my relationships with my peers a lot less stressful and a lot more meaningful. I began to feel more comfortable, and slowly, I started to undo the effects of constant media consumption during quarantine. 


In retrospect, it’s obvious to me that quarantine limited my interactions, which, in turn, limited my relationships. Media could somewhat fill the space left by the lack of relationships and social interactions which was good for a time. However, once I was reintroduced to in-person school and face-to-face interactions, those same screens that once helped me become a hindrance and an obstacle. Through effort and a commitment to changing harmful habits, anyone can once again flourish in an in-person relationship.