December 6, 2021 Courtney Napier

Quarantine for Decades

College Professor and consultant Brodie Theis reflects on the digitizing of our human and societal connections. While our lives transpire more and more in the Metaverse, what happens to our relationship with the tangible, carbon-based, here and now?

Quarantine for Decades
by Brodie Theis

There is no shortage of pieces highlighting ways in which the pandemic has exposed our human interdependence. Supply chains halting holiday gifts. Infographics showing the path of the virus. Cheering for frontline workers at 5pm.  An increased loneliness and depression due to isolation. It’s difficult to deny our unavoidable physical human interdependence.

At the same time, we’re being led into an increased virtual connectedness driven by tech firms, private equity, angel investors, and the Dow Jones.  A server goes down in rural Oklahoma and we not only loose our ability to browse Netflix, we lose banking, music, texting with friends, FaceTime with mom, the home security system, and dinner delivery.

We’d be remiss to ignore the silent partner traveling alongside this growing digital captivation; mainly, the disintegration of our physical lived experience.  The inverse relationship between virtual participation and local connection is palpable.  Humans have limited capacities, which means that extra hours and energy spent online or in augmented reality leave less for the people and places right in front of us here and now.

The web of virtual connectedness continues to draw in additional elements of our lives, hunting down any aspect that is “ripe for disruption”.  We already barely know what our neighbor Mike does for work.  Now with the dramatic increase of remote employment we’re unsure if his employer even resides in this country, and Mike has little familiarity with the lives of his coworkers or customers.  They live in some other place, anyplace.

This is not a new movement.  The solemn truth is that we began choosing quarantine long before 2020; a preference for lockdown in the way we grocery shop, work, relate, and are entertained.

When the pandemic is behind us, will we continue to stow away to virtual worlds in private places, or will we engage that which is in front of us?  We will have the opportunity to protect the things that we love and cherish, from the onslaught of efforts to disrupt and redefine how we understand place, community, and relationship.

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