No Internet connection!
Today I am dealing with a hugely problematic internet connection… or lack thereof, to be more precise. Woke up this morning to no Internet connection, which had actually stopped working last night. Couldn’t even access news on my allegedly smart phone. My Smart TV has been rendered equally useless. My Alexa devices shared their plaintive “Internet connection is not available” when I asked for music.
No internet has meant no election updates. No ability to get the weather forecast. No news to access. No way to log-in to my grad school class work. Couldn’t check any of my email accounts. I read a lot. But I read on an eReader program… so I can’t get anything to download because again, no Internet connection. The sense of being disconnected is disquieting and startling. After all, my telephone lines still work, so if I want to call someone I can. It’s not as if I was marooned on a tropical desert island far from civilization.
And yes, I am aware that this is something some people would derisively call a ‘first-world problem’ because not everybody has access to the Internet at all. I know that in the grand scheme of things it’s silly.
Importance of connection
It strikes me yet again how important connection is in our lives. I have important connections, and I don’t mean that in terms of having connections to people that society in general would consider ‘Important.’ Not fabulously wealthy or famous people. Not captains of industry or celebrities of any kind. Rather, I’m referring to connection with extraordinary ordinary people.
As a disabled, homebound person, you might understandably think that I am very disconnected from the world because I cannot venture out into it physically. I would say with some confidence that a supposition like that is not really true at all. I’m connected to many people through charitable causes for which I advocate. I’m connected to other graduate school students at Georgetown. I’m connected to genealogists. I have connections to people through my parish. I’m connected to authors, editors and reviewers. I’m connected to people who need research conducted, speeches or presentations written. I’m connected to windows and widowers, and other people who have been rocked by grief and struggle to make sense of it all.
I’m accustomed to being connected to these communities of individuals despite my considerable physical limitations. The pandemic that has swept our country pulled many people out of their community circles. Once the novelty of the first few weeks wore off, people started getting restless. Technology was our mutual friend, and social media connections bloomed. More and more people learned how to Zoom and Skype and so forth. Businesses figured out to adapt – reduced staff, telecommuting, masks, social distancing, contactless delivery, and other measures have become the new normal.
The pain of being disconnected
I think for the most part though, people are suffering in different ways because of the lack of connections with others. Circumstances beyond my control forced me to find other ways in my life to connect with people when the death of my husband and the increase in my disability threw up massive roadblocks to socialization. It was tough, because I was always a very social person. Nobody chooses to be disabled and have to contend with the unique types of isolation that go along with it.
Ironically, all of the adaptations put into place because of the pandemic have given me more opportunities to interact with other people. The cause of the changes is tragic, but I do recognize the benefits to people such as myself.
I know from all my interaction with other people that across the country, frustration with the restrictions caused by the pandemic have become increasingly intense. I hear anecdotal evidence and see on social media, that many of the key preventative measures to prevent spreading Covid-19 have become issues of contention. And now for the last 5 days or so the United States is hitting new record high numbers of diagnosed daily coronavirus cases.
I find myself wondering if the reduced opportunities for connection with other people have lessened the feeling of urgency to stay safe by using masks and hand washing, social distancing and hand sanitizer. Does a reduction in connection transform into a reduction of caring about others? Does being separated from people so much make one less conscious of the fact that you are human, and can get sick from the germs that are being spread?
Is the tremendous increase in being separated physically a factor in the extreme animosity that has been displayed during presidential election season? It’s so much easier to perceive people as “other” than you when you aren’t around them at all.
I worry so much about my teenagers! So much normalcy has been stripped from their lives; so many rites of passage they looked forward to will just not happen. Younger kids are even necessarily aware of everything they are missing out on. Then the older they get, the more our kids are conscious of the daily events and milestone things that have been stripped away. Even kids physically attending school have been stripped of lockers, sports, field trips, many clubs, activities and traditions that are normally a part of learning socialization skills, and which teach them how to develop relationships are gone.
I used to try and limit their screen time my children would spend on various electronic devices. Now it seems like the vast majority of their education and recreation time requires some type of screen time. Such irony.
Given the very difficult challenges presented by my disability, I’m very fortunate to have a personal assistant. She handles endless errands for me, and makes sure I find time to eat and drink during the week when I lose myself in work. She helps me with the logistics of more things then I could name, and now also helps me physically troubleshoot tech issues. She was able to restart, reboot and reset the wired systems in my house and hallelujah, my internet service is back.
During the 8 or so hours I was offline quite a lot happened and yet, at the same time, nothing happened, if you understand what I mean by that. I lost a big chunk of my writing time out of my schedule for the week. I have been delayed responding to a couple of things. Certainly not the end of the world, by any means. Just inconvenient.
I did gain some valuable introspection time. In my life, the time to think and reflect on big issues typically comes in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep and my house is quiet. For me, my brain typically tries to solve the problems of the world – and comes up with new ones – between the hours of 3 and 5 AM. When do you do your big thinking? Do you ever think much about the connections in your life, and about which of the most important to you? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or a direct message on Instagram @frominhere because I’d really like to know.