Life

I'm Absolutely Sick of Video Chats

Am I a bad person for not missing my friends during lockdown?
Vincenzo Ligresti
Milan, IT
May 8, 2020, 8:15am
A guy partying in front of a group video chat with coronavirus molecules and confetti floating in the air
Illustration: Matteo Dang Minh

This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.

The lockdown is forcing us to ask ourselves a ton of questions: about our relationship to ourselves, the outside world and others. So we've started a regular feature as a space to collect our thoughts, turn them into questions and have them answered by an expert. This is the third instalment. Read the first here and the second here.

Question: At the beginning of the lockdown, everyone was very enthusiastic about group video chats. It was the only way to feel close to friends and family, to "go out" or have a drink. I stopped enjoying them pretty early on. Now, every time I finish a call, it feels like I haven’t said or felt anything important. I often get a headache. I’m only OK with intimate, one-on-one chats.

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There's more. I think I’ve adapted to this situation, in a way that my own thoughts already feel like a crowd of voices (not always in a good way) and they are often the only company I want to keep. I’m not completely isolated – I reply to messages at my own pace – but I can’t help but wonder: am I a bad person if I’m not missing my friends as much as I thought I would? Or have I simply become an autonomous grown-up?

Answer from Gianluca Franciosi, psychologist and psychotherapist: At the beginning of the lockdown, people were really excited at the novelty of group video chats. Initially, lots of people found it useful to reach out to others almost compulsively, as a way to cope with the "new normal". But these group conversations became a bit of a filler, almost like another task to add to the day and a potential source of stress.

Virtual communication is not a real replacement for going out with friends in real life. Even if you can see your friends' faces and expressions, you can’t be physically close and touch them. Plus, during a video chat, you often feel like you’re being observed by everyone, even by yourself. If you go out with friends you can talk with two people at first, then move to another smaller group, then another, and you won't have the feeling that everyone is paying attention to you (or to your private space in the background) at all times.

Even talking to the people near and dear to you one by one can be exhausting after a while. Days are very similar right now, and so is the news. Maybe there’s just not much to discuss or to tell each other. You also have to take into account all the technical problems that come with video chatting – bad connection, missing pieces of the conversation and so on – which can ruin the moment. You might not have been bothered by these issues initially, but as time goes by, that becomes increasingly hard.

Overall, your question is legitimate, but it’s not the best way to look at it. If you don’t miss someone you’re not necessarily immature, and the desire to be on your own doesn’t make you autonomous. Social contact is important for us, but it is our right to recalibrate it based on our needs during a specific period. Your desire to be less social is more like a detox from the early weeks of lockdown, where the quantity of communication overwhelmed the quality.

Basically, I don’t think you don’t miss the people you love; your reluctance comes from the fact that your relationships are limited by the circumstances. If you want to keep them alive, maybe you could consider watching the same movies, doing sport together remotely or reading the same articles. But only if you feel like it. It’s obviously more difficult to say no at the moment, but sometimes it is necessary for our mental health.

This article originally appeared on VICE IT.