The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Edited by Aneesha Chandra
Now that the world seems to have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and colleges are happy to announce their reopening. Like many of my peers, I am thrilled at the prospect of experiencing life outside of my computer screen. While my mind is racing with thoughts about the long anticipated coffee dates and dance parties I am going to experience, I cannot help but reflect over the last two years.
The online world has always been daunting to me, even before I was subjected to it in 2020. I barely ever used it to connect with my friends because of how artificial it felt. However, I forced myself to adapt to the new circumstances that the pandemic brought with it. I got used to navigating the online world with some level of comfort until I was called back to my college for one semester. My campus life was incomparable to life in the Zoom world. To put it simply, that semester was the best time of my life. Little did I know that it would be short-lived.
The shift from offline to online seemed cruel. As my icon Blair Waldorf put it, how could I be expected to settle for catfish once I had tasted caviar? I tried my best to re-adapt but failed on several occasions. When I began thinking about why the virtual world was causing me so much distress, I realised something deeper about myself. Everything was harder than it had been before I experienced campus life primarily because of how the online set-up was not accommodating of the way I love.
Giving is my love language. It feeds me, motivates me, makes me feel happy and secure. I felt restrained by words, pictures, and emojis of the online world. There was only so much I could do for the people I loved and that bothered me a lot. It got me down, made me feel worthless. On campus, I had many ways to express my love. I would pick up a friend’s laundry without them asking, get them food from the mess, make them Maggi, and so on. I did not have to consciously think about any of it. I would just give in different ways. However, this was not possible in cyberspace. I had to become conscious of my ways of giving because of how unnatural the environment was. Consequently, I began overthinking and felt the pressure to give in the perfect way.
Fortunately, I shared my thoughts with a friend of mine. The conversation made me see things in a different light. She said, "Yes, there is no doubt that the online environment is restricting but it is better than nothing. Sending emails and memes may not seem valuable to you but it can actually make a big difference in people's lives. It shows them that you are there for them." Though I understood where she was coming from, I was not convinced. I replied, “That is the least you can expect from a friend, for them to be there.” In response, she said, “That does not make it any less important.”
That's when I realised how conditioned I had been to only value things that are apparent and tangible. From grand gestures like decorating your loved one’s room to smaller ways of showing love like buying them their favourite chocolate, we are taught to value our friends’ efforts to make the unexpected come true. I have always wanted to give in the perfect way but this idea of "perfect" was shaped by the outside world. I have never seen a birthday post that talks about how grateful people are for their friends who do things that are expected. All I see are posts appreciating how people go out of the way to make the other feel loved and special. The irony is that the things that go unnoticed, that are taken for granted, are the ones that have the most power to make the other feel loved and happy constantly.
I learnt that giving is not just about making gestures or doing the unexpected. It is also about doing the expected. It is about sending them a song, tagging them on a post, and sending a random voice note. A “Hii, I was thinking about you” can go a long way towards making a friend’s day. Perfect is not about what you see in movies and read about in books. Doing the bare minimum may not always be celebrated, but it is as important as going out of your way. Everytime I think about how exhausting maintaining relationships online is, I remember this. I do the small, expected things. That is good enough.