This article was written for the Carnival of Aces, which this month had the theme of “quarantine”.
Back in February, I got a new job. I like my job, but my main complaint was the long commute–over an hour and a half in each direction. My husband had an even longer commute, so we were in the process of looking for a new apartment in a better location.
In March, my company told everyone to work from home. My husband’s company did the same. Suddenly we had all this extra free time, multiple hours every day that we would have spent commuting. But all that extra free time–and more–got immediately slurped up.
Although it could be said we’re all in this together, I’ve noticed some stark contrasts in the way that COVID-19 has impacted our personal lives. There are those who lost their jobs or were sent home from school, and there are those who kept their jobs and now have to take care of their kids at the same time.
In the ace community, you might expect that since few people have kids, people gain free time rather than losing it. But as someone who keeps track of ace community activity (for linkspam purposes), I’ve observed a precipitous decline in activity in March and April, followed by a slow recovery in May. Other people have noticed it too. I’d like to offer my own experience as a case study of why this might have happened.
Loss of services
With so many people in the service industry losing their jobs, it’s important to remember that they were in fact providing useful labor. In many cases this labor now needs to be performed by individual households. This is most obvious when it comes to childcare and education.
But for our household, the biggest impact comes from food preparation. In the beforetimes we would often get food from our offices, and go out to eat a few times a week. Now we prepare all our own food, breakfast lunch and dinner, day after day after day. I’m sure some readers were already preparing all their own food to begin with. Still, for us it is a new time drain.
Opportunities to get closer
Although there are many friends who we haven’t talked to much since the virus hit, some people have taken it as a cue to reconnect. In particular, I’ve been spending a lot more time with my brothers playing games. First we finished a campaign of Factorio, and now we are playing Minecraft.
Another person I see a lot more of is of course my husband. So we’ve found new ways to spend time together as well, such as working out. I am more in shape than I have ever been my entire life.
And then my mother, who has been doing Zumba instruction for years, is now doing Zumba over Zoom. So now we do dance workouts as well.
Some people have felt isolated by the virus, but in some ways I feel more connected than ever. The time I devote to these connections is well-spent to be sure, but spent all the same.
Lack of time, or lack of energy?
What if I said that I have plenty of free time, but I just spend more of it playing video games? I’ve already mentioned playing video games with my brothers, and there are others that I’ve played by myself such as Heaven’s Vault, Disco Elysium, and Animal Crossing. In my experience, playing video games is often a low-energy activity, something I can do even if I’m fairly tired. Blogging, on the other hand, is more of a high-energy activity. From one perspective, I’m not blogging because I’m too busy playing video games; from another perspective, I’m not blogging because I’m too tired.
There are many things about COVID-19 that are exhausting. There’s the perpetual bad news on social media. The sudden shift in routine. The concern that I or one of my relatives will catch the virus. And particular to blogging, it feels like writing about anything besides the virus is pointless; and writing about the virus itself is also pointless. These are not ideal writing conditions. Writing takes more energy than ever before. So I don’t write, I play video games, and then sometimes I write about the video games.
Work behind the scenes
It’s also worth noting a few things that have occupied my time/energy which apparently have no relation to COVID-19. For instance, in the past couple of months I’ve been managing volunteers for the Ace Community Survey. There are a lot of volunteers. I am also part of a program mentoring new data scientists. I do a lot of stuff I never talk about!
Perhaps the takeaway is that life goes on, and I still have the usual things to occupy my time, on top of all the virus-related time sinks. And it makes a difference that the usual things I occupy my time with are things that can be done online, and therefore were never cancelled.
On the reddit page I linked to earlier, there were several hypotheses for the decline of activity in online ace communities. These hypotheses included “people are having internet connectivity issues because of the high demand for bandwidth,” and “people who’ve returned home don’t want family to see that they frequent aro/ace websites.” That may be, but I believe that my personal experience–although it is colored by my unique personal circumstances–suggests that people might just be busy with other things, or just too tired.