Valerie Pavilonis

You’ve gotten the notification four times now: once each Sunday since we were released on Spring Break. Each Sunday, you sink further and further into the self-disappointment spiral. At first, you justified it with, “I just came home,” or, “I’m taking a break from schoolwork.” Soon enough, however, you reached the point where you could hardly believe your own eyes. How has my average daily screen time shot up to seven hours, 34 minutes? How have I had a 29 percent increase in screen time? 

Correlation may not be causation, but it’s certainly no coincidence that screen times have increased with the number of areas under mandatory quarantine. The Washington Post actually used the phrase “through the roof.” It makes sense. ur phones and computers are our connection to the friends we were forced to leave. This uptick is not necessarily a bad thing; we need to stay connected to each other — and the world — while stuck in our houses. Daily walks (if you are able to do so) are insufficient for your former neighborhood extrovert or college social butterfly. We need to text, call and zoom our friends, and we need social media to remind us what life used to be like. Social media provides us with the information, laughs and connections necessary to beat our social heart. While I am cognizant of the dangers of social media, at this time, I truly think it is a universal lifeforce. We are able to stay connected to a “quaran-teen” community that we would have otherwise lost. And every social media platform brings something special to the table. Here, I will delineate the uniqueness of the various platforms in this screen-time-quarantine-time.

         I will begin with Snapchat. Oh, how you bring me such comfort at this time. I look forward to my acquaintances’ daily “streak” picture of the ceiling. It allows me to pretend that nothing has really changed; I am still getting the low-quality snapchats I have always received. However, as I find my own snapscore approaching another 100,000 hurdle, I acknowledge that not all is the same, as I am spending more time on snapchat than I ever have before. I have been snapchatting my friends in the same pajamas for two days straight. People begin to question why I haven’t left my room. I don’t have the heart to tell them I am simply living my best life: laying in my pajamas, in bed, for 13 hours straight.on’t want to make them jealous, ya know? 

         Random boys from high school are starting a streak with me. Should I be concerned? Probably, but I am so bored. At this point, I will talk to anybody. To distract myself from these feeble social connections, I look at people’s snapstories. Too quickly, I force myself to close out of these stories. How many YOLO anonymous questions can I look at? And batches of homemade cookies? The answer lies somewhere around six, anymore and I would probably have maxed out. 

         Now Twitter. I check this app so often that, if I’m lucky, there is maybe one new tweet every time I scroll. Twitter is a fairly reliable source for information. And how else would I find out that President Trump called A-Rod for his coronavirus opinion and that Taylor Swift finally beat Kanye West in their 11-year old feud? I enjoy looking at my governor’s tweets and infographics about which New Jersey counties have found new cases of COVID-19. I follow Yale’s twitter for more updates than the mere four that reach my email daily, and I even won a $25 gift card from Yale University Press for tagging my favorite local bookstore. Woo!

         I don’t tweet much myself. Instead, I find humor in my retweets; I often tell my friends to follow me on Twitter, when they are feeling just a little blue. My humor actually reaches its peak on Twitter. I truly believe that the memes found there are unparalleled across any other social media platform. 

         Once I’m done with Twitter, I usually switch to VSCO — a platform to edit and post pictures without concern for “likes” and whatnot. VSCO, while very popular in my high school, is far less ubiquitous than I once thought. Therefore, there is a bit more artistic freedom here than elsewhere. However, the VSCO photos as of late often mainly consist of poorly lit mirror selfies and pictures of the local park — once again, I can only look at so many. Usually, I can laugh at a few screenshots of texts between a couple that is just SO cute. There are also many dogs and many quotes on this app — which very well may be its saving grace — beyond its stellar collection of filters. VSCO also gives the opportunity to “republish” a photo, which is very similar to “retweeting” a tweet. Yet, you only really look at a VSCO if you are truly internet-stalking a person, or perhaps want to know what is going on inside their head. I love this deep dive, however, so I tolerate the often gag-worthy posts in search of the greater good  (information on people I hardly know).

         As opposed to just scrolling through pictures, now I am ready to “like” my friends’ posts. So Instagram, here we come! The quarantine has really made me sick of you. All I see are old vacation photos, and I hope I don’t see new ones. Don’t even get me started on the Instagram stories. “Draw a carrot and then nominate three others to do the same.” Sorry, I am not THAT bored. “See 10 pushups, do 10 pushups—nominate two others.” m, no? “Kick a roll of toilet paper like a soccer ball and see how long you can do it.” ell, I guess now we know where all the toilet paper is going. “Post a selfie and tag other beautiful women to empower them.”kay, I can get behind this, but I don’t like all of these nomination events. And these “until tomorrow” posts? Not a fan. Instagram used to be a place where I enjoyed looking at my friends’ photos, stalking new people and sending memes. Now, I can barely tolerate it. I hope Instagram reverts back to its golden pre-quarantine days soon. 

         Facebook, boy have you really taken this time to shine. You’ve always kept me in the loop about Yale’s latest endeavors and student-driven movements. For example, the Universal Pass movement caught a lot of traction on Facebook, and I think that is very cool usage of a social media platform. I joined a Facebook group called “Zoom memes for Self QuaranTeens,” which always gives me a good smile. I love seeing my fellow university students acting like clowns over the internet. For instance, the silly zoom backgrounds everyone displays while in the middle of a serious class. Too good. Facebook, while typically very good for information and events, has particularly been enjoyable for me over this quarantine. This one may factor in to my increased screen-time.

         TikTok. You are to blame for my self-disdain every Sunday. Addicting is what you are. You compel me to bombard my friends with links to funny videos, and my left thumb is stronger because of my scrolling. The quarantine jokes on this app are insanely creative. Even if they aren’t creative, and I have seen them 1000 times, I still laugh. This quarantine, I have been seeing a lot of home workout videos (which are not always welcome) and videos of high school senior girls in prom dresses they will never wear. This past week, though, the college decision videos have also tickled my fancy. Keep up the good-work TikTok. I knew you would carry me through this time. 

         The darkhorse in this race deserves a brief mention — Houseparty. I haven’t heard that name in years. However, my good friend demanded that it make a comeback and indeed, it has. I am often receiving notifications that my friends are “in the house.” The wild part about Houseparty is that anybody can join your “room,” or the group facetime that you are in. This adds just a little spice to your nighttime routine. I like you, Houseparty. You are the closest thing I have to Woads. Quarantine has been just as good to you as you have been to my social needs. 

         Does Zoom count as social media? Asking for a friend. Either way, I am definitely a fan. Great audio systems, and I love how the person speaking goes onto the “big screen.” It is a little hard to take my teachers seriously, though, over a computer screen. I wish we didn’t have to Zoom, but as far as a video-platform goes, not half bad!

         Maybe I am the only one with a technological addiction; maybe I don’t need to take two showers a day just so I can listen to my Spotify in peace; maybe I don’t need to analyze my days through the lens of social media memes. But at the end of the day, I am what I am, and I do what I do and I am not ashamed. These social media platforms remind me of who I once was and who I can still become. I can do the TikTok workout routines while learning how to sew. I can do it all. We have all this time now, don’t we? There is no way to learn anything, sans the internet. And if all I learn is a better sense of humor? So be it. It’s called self-improvement, and I can thank my social media inspiration for it.

Hailey O’Connor | hailey.oconnor@yale.edu