Fighting through coronavirus isolation: 4 people share their tech habits

Mandatory shelter-in-place orders have swept across the world since mid-March, forcing more than 316 million Americans to work, learn, socialize, and entertain themselves from their homes for weeks.

The inability to see friends and family, or keep to a proper routine has left many feeling isolated. Social media has proven to be a haven for some, but for those living alone, tech use during the age of the coronavirus takes on new meaning. A once-vibrant social life may be hard to transition online. Family moments, birthdays, and celebrations can feel especially lonely.

Digital Trends spoke with four people living alone across the U.S. and Europe about their tech use during self-isolation and asked them to share their habits in the form of a diary.

Tech diaries have been edited for consistency and clarity.

Dublin, Ireland

Originally from Chicago, Aly Womack has been living in Dublin, Ireland, for the last year. She works for a tech company that specializes in social media, and before a mandatory stay-at-home order was enacted nearly five weeks ago, she regularly visited the gym, played in weekly team soccer games, and met up for social outings at pubs.

Womack lives alone and said before quarantine, she enjoyed the occasional work-from-home day to reboot. Throughout the last few weeks, she’s made it her mission to create a sturdy routine to stick to in order to wade out distractions. Connecting with her family back in the U.S. has been difficult because of the time difference, but she stays entertained with some of her favorite TLC reality shows.

Tuesday, April 7

8 a.m. Alarm goes off on iPhone, hit snooze three times.

8:45 a.m. Finish up Lovett or Leave it and Daily Social Distancing with Trevor Noah on Apple Podcasts while making coffee and getting dressed for the day.

9 a.m. Teamwork meeting on Zoom. Daily use of Gmail, Salesforce, Outreach, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Slack, Confluence, and Google Drive.

9:45 a.m. Open the MyFitnessPal app, which tracks diet and exercise. “[I’m] trying to watch what I’m eating as I’m a creature of habit and was snacking way too much the first couple of weeks,” Womack said.

11 a.m. One-on-one meeting via Google Hangouts with manager.

Noon Launch Strava to record daily warm-up run and work with fitness trainer on the TrueCoach app. Listen to playlists by artists Demi Lovato, Judah and the Lion, Dua Lipa on Spotify.

Strava
Strava

“My work crew has a Strava work group set up so we can all see the kilometers we’re getting in,” she said. “My trainer also set me up with at-home workouts without weights since I do not have any here.”

12:45 p.m. Open YouTube on SmartTV to watch Monday night’s The Voice. Log lunch into MyFitnessPal app. 

1 p.m. Work online until the end of the day. 

5:15 p.m. Went for a walk and used WhatsApp to call friends. 

6 p.m. Check Twitter to see the latest Ireland Health Service news for new COVID-19 cases.  “Fingers always crossed it’s going down.”

7:15 p.m. Open MyFitnessPal to log dinner and other snacks. Launch Fitbit app to sync steps for the day, which also syncs to MyFitnessPal. 

7:30 p.m. Launch Express VPN and Safari to watch TLC’s 90 Day Fiance: Before The 90 Days. Open Instagram.

9:30 p.m. Play Scrabble Go with friends.

Santa Barbara, California

Dax lives on the West Coast and works for a cloud software firm. Dax, who asked not to have his last name published, has been working from home for years, but per his doctor’s recommendation, he’s been self-isolating for the past few months — just when the coronavirus was first making its way to the U.S.

google nest hub

He’s a techie and an avid reader, whose home is filled with any device you can think of: Google Home, Alexa, Sonos, Xbox One, PlayStation, et cetera. His average workday involves five laptops and consistent communication via his iPhone. And although his quarantine tech use doesn’t look different than usual, he said he’s surprised how much he’s been using his iPhone’s Messages app to stay in contact with friends and family. 

Monday, April 6

4:30 a.m. Wake up and put on relaxation music via Sonos to play throughout the house. Check last night’s sleep activity via Oura Ring, and Twitter. 

6 a.m. Use Zoom to workout with a trainer via laptop. Play EDM Pandora playlist on Sonos. Take the dog for a walk while listening to The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons on Audible app for iPhone. Respond to text messages using iMessage and work messages via Slack. 

9 a.m. Use Microsoft Teams on multiple devices to take home office meetings and calls for work. 

Noon During lunch, use PocketCasts to listen to Your Kickstarter Sucks and Blank Check podcasts. 

Dax Screentime Coronavirus Isolation

5 p.m. Launch Plex to watch Twin Peaks season 3, episode 6 while scrolling through Twitter and Instagram. Switch to The Sopranos to watch with girlfriend while iMessaging. 

Play NES Classic games on Nintendo Switch while having Twitch on in the background. Checked the news for latest updates on COVID-19, then shared the news with family via group iMessage and HousepartyListen to Old Path, White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh to wind down. Listen to a guided meditation led by Tara Brach using the Calm app to fall asleep.

Northern Colorado

Nicole, who asked that her last name be kept private, is a family lawyer living in northern Colorado. For the first couple of weeks of self-isolation, she experienced mild anxiety because her routine was quickly disrupted. But since she’s been living in Colorado for the last seven years, she’s accustomed to communicating with her friends and family, who live outside the state, primarily using technology.

The biggest adjustment she’s had to make is with work: The chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court postponed most in-person court hearings, leaving lawyers like Nicole to mitigate via telephone. She’s a fan of survivor horror video games and often plays Dungeons & Dragons with friends. 

“I think I also realized how often I check my phone to see who has reached out now, too,” she said. 

Tuesday, April 7

6:30 a.m. Woke up, and checked iPhone to see if anyone had called or sent a text message. Browsed Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit for about 30 minutes before getting up. “My brother and sister-in-law went into the hospital [the night before] to give birth and he had sent an update on how she was doing,” she said. 

7:15 a.m. Made chorizo breakfast hash via Budget Bytes website and listened to the “Today’s Chill” playlist on Apple Music. “I am an essential employee and my work has an in-office rotating shift schedule. Since today was not my day to go into the office and I did not have to worry about making a morning commute, I decided to make a real breakfast based on this recipe I found online,” she said.

7:50 a.m. Ate breakfast and checked personal email and Twitter again, while reviewing the day’s tasks. 

8 a.m. Started working and received iMessage updates from her brother throughout the day. Used Apple Watch as a reminder to stand up and move around every hour. Chatted with friends via Facebook Messenger app“I like background noise while I work so I put on Netflix and had Community playing in the background in my living room while I worked in my study,” Nicole said. 

fb messenger
Facebook Messenger

Noon Took a lunch break and exercised using the MyZone belt, which tracks and uploads workout statistics like length, heart rate, and calories burned to an app where a personal trainer can keep track. “I can also use that app to chat with the groups that I used to work out with during the week for encouragement or ideas on what to try while exercising at home,” she said. 

1 p.m. Took work calls and meetings for the rest of the afternoon using WhatsApp and Signal. 

5 p.m. Made dinner and then played Final Fantasy XV. Used AllRecipes to find a recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  

7 p.m. “My brother texted my family to let us know the baby had been born and sent us a picture,” she said. 

10:30 p.m. Browsed Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter before going to bed while watching Community on Netflix.

Philadelphia

Beth Bachmayer, 26, is a masters candidate at Gwynedd Mercy University and a seventh-grade social studies teacher living in the Roxborough neighborhood of Philadelphia. On a normal day, Bachmayer taught nearly 110 children daily and had an active social life on the weekends. Her work is very hands-on, but since it shifted online, she only interacts with her students roughly once a week through Microsoft Teams. Bachmayer said her school district opted not to use the video conferencing app Zoom because of privacy concerns.

Shortly through quarantine, Bachmayer noticed she had to continually charge her old phone to keep up with her increased screen time, so she bought a new one, a Samsung Galaxy S10e. “I don’t get push notifications on my phone, as a teacher there are times where I don’t check my phone at all,” she said. “But now I definitely have been opening a lot of my apps.”

Monday, April 6

8:30 a.m. Woke up and posted student assignments for the week on Microsoft Teams, then turned on TV for background noise. Responded to work emails via Microsoft Outlook. 

8:45 a.m. Launched Snapchat. Watched Some Good News with John Krasinski episode 2 on YouTube. Returned student assignments via Microsoft Teams. 

9:45 a.m. Made breakfast and sent photo of it to friends via Snapchat. 

snapchat
Snapchat

10 a.m. Scrolled through Facebook while eating. 

10:53 a.m. Watched Good Girls season 3, episode 8 on Hulu while scrolling through Instagram. 

12:05 p.m. Back to work via Microsoft Teams. Turned on Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu for background noise.

12:30 p.m. Opened TikTok and texted friends in a group chat. Convinced one friend to download TikTok. 

1:25 p.m. Used Microsoft Teams to video conference with a colleague to walk through how to video chat with students. 

2:30 p.m. Turned on One Tree Hill season 5, episode 13 on Hulu. 

3:35 p.m. Logged off work for the day. 

3:42 p.m. Listened to Pop Punk Powerhouses on Spotify during an at-home workout. 

4:42 p.m. Took the dog on a walk while listening to Monster: DC Sniper podcast on Spotify, season 3, episode 13. 

5:16 p.m. Looked at memes on Instagram. 

6:38 p.m. Turned on ABC World News Tonight with David Muir

7 p.m. Watched One Tree Hill season 5, episode 14 on Hulu. 

7:43 p.m. Opened Instagram and scrolled through The Daily Show account to get caught up with posts. 

7:50 p.m. Chatted with friends via Snapchat. 

10:30 p.m. Went to bed and put on The Hangover on Netflix for background noise while scrolling through TikTok. 

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