Looking back the last year and a half, the importance of being able to stay connected online is more prevalent than ever. The toll of staying safe, made us all stay terminally online. Only seeing each other through our screens, as we tried to study, to work or just stay social. The lockdown of the whole world changed quite a bit around including for me.
First a bit of backstory. When I was around thirteen years old my parents, like many parents, went through a divorce. This had the added consequence that my mother became the primary caretaker for my siblings and me. Now we weren’t ever the typical image of a divorced family. One of the differences being that my mother as far as I can remember was the main breadwinner. This meant that she worked and she worked a lot. One of the deals of her job is that she had to travel all over the world. Meaning that for days on end, me and my siblings would be home alone. Because of this, the use of digital media was more crucial than ever.
Like for many during the pandemic, the initial stage was one of scrambling and confusion to find the best way to still be able to talk to each other. Being suddenly without parents for days on end, week after week was quite an adjustment. At first, it was only through clunky emails, but quite quickly we switched over to WhatsApp and skype. And this is how it stayed throughout my teenage years and into early adulthood. And then 2020 happened… March 13 2020, My mother arrived much earlier than planned from her work trip back in Schiphol. And for the first time in a long time, she had to stay at home. While for many this was a time of separation, for my family it was a unique change of pace.
It is interesting to look back at this change, for a very long time the way the major way me and my mother connected was through the digital medium. While it is easy to see the negatives in such a story of a frequently absent mother, it is actually further from the truth. Although she wasn’t always present, she also kind of was. Sure having to have my mother call me in sick from school all the way from Shanghai was less than ideal. But truly I think it is possible to stay deeply connected to one another, even while being so far apart. Without the digital world, this story would have been very different. Frankly, my mother would never have been able to do her dream job and I would have had a very different childhood.
It is then the strangeness that in the time of separation me and my mother were physically closer for a very long time. The current discourse about our digital need has made me realize that for me the dependency on digital media for the most important of connections began a long time ago. While there are many true criticisms made about our dependency on the digital world, during these times and long before it, it was for me and for many others a life line.