Opinion: We connected while staying apart

“iPhone” by Kawa0310 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I used to never get phone calls – maybe one every couple of months if I was lucky. But at the time, it didn’t matter how often my phone rang because I was always hearing other people’s voices, talking to them face-to-face. I would get text messages like “hey how did you do number six?” or “by the way I can’t make it to practice in the morning” – but anything else could just wait until the next day. I didn’t even have Snapchat. 

Now my phone rings more than it ever had before.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, I was still in high school. We were about to go on spring break, but no one really thought we were going to be affected by it – there were only a handful of cases in the United States at the time. Even though we were doubtful of the effect COVID-19 would have on us, my English teacher still said, “Make sure you guys take all of your stuff with you in case we don’t come back.”

We left for spring break, and soon it was announced we were extending break for a week to give teachers time to prepare to move online, which we would be doing for the foreseeable future. 

My parents were still working, as their jobs were deemed essential, so I was looking forward to a lonely few weeks. I’d just sit at home with my dog, playing video games and watching Nextflix, waiting for online school to start. But once it did start, not much changed. Using Zoom was against my school policy so online classes consisted of teachers publishing the work for the week every Monday and me sitting down and completing everything for the entire week in about six hours so I could just go back to the television until the next Monday came. 

I wasn’t really talking to anyone and the quarantine loneliness was kicking in. I would text my friends a little bit, but no one really had anything to talk about. I would watch the weekly “How are you doing?” videos my English classmates were posting and listen to them talk about “Tiger King” and baking bread. It was nice to hear their voices and see their faces. Even though it wasn’t normal, it was still better than nothing.

At some point during the blur, it was announced that we were moving permanently online for the rest of the year and that graduation was to be postponed. 

The communication started increasing after that. After we took the AP Calculus test, my friend Victoria called me and we talked for an hour, just catching up, and it was so nice to hear her voice. My best friend Katie and I would talk occasionally but we normally just texted, but even with that, being able to know a little about her day when we’d basically spent the past four years by each other’s side made things feel a little more normal. 

Even before the pandemic, my mom and I would FaceTime occasionally with my brother, as he lives in Oregon. Once the lockdowns started, and to this day, we added my grandma to the calls, sticking to a schedule: family FaceTime at 1 p.m. every Sunday. 

When I moved to Liberty for William Jewell College in August last year, the communication really started to pick up. 

I made new friends here, ones that I think I’ll cherish for a long time, but I also haven’t forgotten the friends that got me through the first 18 years of my life. 

I got Snapchat. Now Katie and I have a 69-day streak which would have been more than double that if we hadn’t lost it. We FaceTime sometimes, too, just for little things like complaining about the K-pop industry’s recent choices. We also send each other TikToks, Tweets and just things that make us laugh. 

My mom calls me sometimes on her way home from work now, connecting me through Bluetooth so we can tell each other about our days. Every once in a while I’ll call my dad and we’ll tiptoe around politics and talk about World War II. I’ve gotten them both to send me semi-constant updates on my dog, including pictures. 

More often than not, my phone has a message waiting for me, or it’s ringing, just waiting for me to pick up. The constant communication has been nice. 

When the pandemic started, the world got a lot more lonely. I didn’t see anyone except for my parents for weeks at a time, and if I did, we couldn’t hug, and I couldn’t see them smile. The FaceTimes and text messages and Snapchats have filled some of the communication void. Even though I, like most everyone else, wish we could just go back to the way things were, finding new ways to communicate has gotten me through the year.

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