Digital Isolation

Apologies if this one is a little bit rambly and unfocused; I’m writing it late at night, because I think it’s important that I get these words out before my current anger dies.

Early Wednesday, about midnight, I sent the following message around to a few different group chats and to a few friends directly.

I’m stuck inside and the more I learn the angrier I get. There’s a pandemic going on and 30% of renters are going to be evicted, but Congress is focusing on banning TikTok. The nominally left-leaning party voted down Medicare for all, which would remove the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States, and which 70% of all Americans support. Federal agents are being deployed to capture people protesting rampant police brutality. Healthcare protections were rolled back for transgender people. UNL is starting up in two weeks with not nearly enough precautions, and it’s going to get people killed.

What the fuck am I supposed to do with all this? How can I react productively? What thing can I do that will make these conditions materially better?

I normally don’t like to swear on this blog, but in this case I think it’s appropriate. This is the first time in my adult life that fighting back seems not only prudent but necessary, but because of the pandemic, there’s no way for me to get out there and change things without endangering others. I’m okay with putting my own wellbeing at risk; it’s mine to use how I will. I can’t do that to others.

I’m constantly bombarded with the most important information of my lifetime. Every day is more momentous than the last. I can’t pay attention to the news and I can’t not pay attention to the news. I’m a big proponent of collective action, and this is the time to put my money where my mouth is, but it’s also the one time where getting together puts people in danger. I know I’m not the only one experiencing this.

It doesn’t help that without face-to-face interaction, the others in my life are reduced to little more than additional pieces of information to be processed. Sometimes I have to choose between using my limited energy to have a conversation with my parents or to read a news article.

I choose the news too often.

I’m going to be reading up on ways to do participate in collective action digitally. Being a software developer, it might be the best use of my skills to try to help set up online communities that can do something. When I go back to UNL, I’ll use my 3D printer to donate small batches of PPE to whoever needs it. I’m donating to various *GoFundMe*s for people that are homeless, or sick, or rejected by their family. I’m probably going to pinch my nose and donate to the Democratic campaign. And I’m sure as hell going to vote.

I just worry that isn’t enough. And I worry even more that’s all I can do right now.