Everything's better with friends, even a pandemic

Working remotely is fun when you can do it with your friends.

When I went to study in the UK, I misjudged how many lectures I'd have for my course. After going through five years of six, eight-hour days every week, I was expecting a lot more interaction with my classmates and professors. But, unfortunately, creative writing is a solo activity, so we had to do most of the work we had to do by ourselves. 

That didn't stop my friends and me from going to the library, armed with snacks and drinks, sitting there from early evening to late night, to "study together". No matter that we weren't even in the same course or year, we just wanted to be around each other and have some human interaction as we studied (or procrastinated). 

We're so used to being around other humans

It wasn't just when I was studying that I craved company. That same year in the UK, the lack of people got to me. I come from a city of 22 million people and live in Bombay, where houses are matchbox-sized, so personal space is a luxury both inside and outside. But having all the space I wanted and then some wasn't like I'd expected. My 16m2 studio felt super empty — I felt lonely and cut off from my loved ones.

My friends who had moved to different countries themselves also felt this loneliness and homesickness — this yearning for human company, the kind where you just exist around someone. After all, we were so used to just sitting next to each other in the library or canteen and doing our own thing. 

So, we adapted. 

We video called each other as we did laundry, cooked dinner, or completed coursework — all while keeping each other in the background for hours on end. There was something supremely comforting in hearing the noise on the other end as my friend tried to cook (but inevitably burned) her dinner. I've even rung in New Year's with my best friends on a virtual sleepover, clinking glasses from across the world, live on a video call — even though I was four hours behind them. 

Welcome to your first pandemic!

When the first lockdown hit India, I couldn't see my best friends who live less than a stone's throw away from me. Of course, that's a privileged problem to have because people were literally dying. I recognize the sheer first-worldness of my feelings, but what to do, I still feel them, don't I? Good thing we're complex beings who can feel multiple things at once. We all went through different kinds of hell during the pandemic, even those of us who were lonely and sad from not being able to see our loved ones.

We adapted too. 

A few weeks into the strictest lockdown in the world, we were all on video calls, playing Among Us, Catan, and Online Pictionary. We made WhatsApp groups and added all our friends, mixing circles, because not everyone could be online at the same time, and no one should miss out on this newfound way of connecting. 

In the last eighteen months of Miss' Rona wreaking havoc on the world, there have been small pockets of freedom where I've been able to invite my friends just to come and hang around with me. We did the same things we usually do every day — just with someone else for company for a few days. 

Come, let's work together

Nobody is productive for eight hours every day. When you work in an office, you break up work by chatting with your pod neighbours, going and making tea half a dozen times, and just hanging around at other people's desks, wasting time by discussing random shit. That's why you're able to be productive the rest of the time — your brain focuses better with breaks to rejuvenate itself.

When my friends come over to work with me, it's always a real fun time. I set my schedule, so having them around gives me a reason to be more disciplined and actually finish work by the time they're done. Taking a lunch break to eat and chat with someone feels nicer than taking my lunch in front of whatever Netflix show I'm currently watching. And then there are those random conversations that are more important than we think that make me feel so content.

Of course, I still can't see all of my friends and loved ones. They're all in different countries and cities and who knows when we'll be able to meet again. But that hasn't stopped me from hanging around with them virtually. Whether it's watching something together or playing Genshin Impact or bullet journalling while keeping each other on a video call, this way of hanging out has become almost second nature to me. 

We all want to feel like we're a part of something

This isn't a novel way of doing things by any means. If you're a writer, you've probably heard of and have done writing sprints with fellow writers. I remember doing such sprints on Twitter with NaNoWriMo years ago. In the more recent past, I've joined the London Writer's Salon with other writers to set my writing goals for a workshop they do every month. They also host a daily zoom call, from Monday to Friday, where writers from all over the world pop in to write something. 

For zoom school students, aka zoomers, the world of Study With Me videos and discord servers are the way to recreate the feeling of a classroom. They're used as accountability tools and as a way to connect with other students — the same way we used to go and study together in-person, at the library. 

All this to say, the unique appeal of working or doing things with someone, anyone, is almost always better than going about it alone. Sure, there are days when you may want to write alone or when you cherish the ability to have your own, no-other-humans workspace. But that gets boring pretty quickly — unless you're constantly interacting with your team or someone else in another form. 

To me, it's amazing how the desire and power of human connection transcend physical presence. I'm so grateful that we live in a world where I can call my friend up in France, and we can be each other's background noise for a couple of hours with a few clicks and for free. Blessed be the wifi that powers our lives. 


We're humans; we desire, seek out, and thrive on connection. It's why we send out things into space to find others — we don't think we are or definitely don't want to be alone in this universe. 

We're okay on our own, but that doesn't mean we wouldn't appreciate some company now and again, you know? 

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