When what you see isn’t what you feel

The weekend before lockdown, Liam and I made an eight hour round drive for a mini-break in Taranaki. A good chunk of that was on winding roads, and for me that meant a good chunk of it was spent feeling like I was about to throw up.

Travel sickness is caused by the dissonance between what you’re seeing and what you’re feeling. That’s why it can be worse when you’re reading or looking at your phone – your eyes see something stationary, but your body feels it is moving. The two things come into conflict.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been posting on Facebook and Instagram, and on Yammer and Teams for work, more than usual recently. Like I’m desperate to be visible when I’ve been instructed to be invisible. Another conflict at play. I’ve joined hobby and community groups and shared my wins with total strangers (‘got some thread!’ ‘made a top!’).

My theory is that we all love doing the right thing when we’re praised or rewarded for it. The ice bucket challenge comes to mind – designed to raise money for charity, it took on a life of its own for the bonus social points it offered, the celebrity cachet that came with it.

Right now you can add a ‘Stay home’ sticker to your Instagram story, share a photo of your home-made soda bread or a video of your work-from-home setup. Look at me doing the right thing, we’re telling people.

Aucklanders have just escaped water restrictions because of the reduced water consumption brought about by lockdown. I cynically wonder if people would have been as happy to live through a discomfort that’s so much less shareable. Taking shorter showers and putting more clothes in every wash is effective, but doesn’t make for such a good selfie.

Or maybe I’m being hard on those of us who’ve upped our social media sharing in recent weeks. After all, while we’re physically distancing we’re just desperately trying to socially connect. 

Then again, we have the chance to connect aplenty, through video calling. And yet when it comes to my fifth Zoom call in a row I just want to say no and have the evening to myself. I’ve been ‘on’ all day and feel exhausted. (A hug, though, I would say yes to.)

It’s that same trick of the mind as travel sickness. While I spend most of my day on Zoom calls, seeing friendly faces filling my screen, I know I’m really in this strange space of isolation. It makes you feel uneasy. Or queasy. And as one academic put it so neatly: ‘dissonance is exhausting’.

I’m switching my screen off for a rest. See you all soon.

Kia kaha (stay strong) and take care.

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