My most intimate relationship of 2020 was with the internet. I did my job online, and talked to my friends online, and streamed hundreds of hours of TV that I’d already seen online, just to fill my empty apartment with human sounds. I used the internet to put scary Instagram filters on my face, and join a mutual-aid Slack group, and reflexively refresh the coronavirus case count in my zip code, and attend my cousin’s wedding, and blog about a parasocial relationship with an online Pilates instructor.
I know I’m not alone in feeling that the internet has become even more vital than it was before the pandemic began, when it was already pretty vital. Adults talked, last year, about discovering TikTok for the first time, and using it to soothe the anxieties instigated by everything else. They also Zoomed and Zoomed and Zoomed, and then discussed “Zoom fatigue,” or “video vertigo,” defined as “a downward spiral that comes from compounding work and leisure in the same space.” Most of the important dating apps added videochat features, or other tools for virtual dating, and celebrated unexpected surges in flirting: March 29, 2020, was Tinder’s first day of 3 billion swipes, setting a record that would be broken 130 more times within the year. Clubhouse, america offline