“I am part of an online fandom community, of my favorite music group, and it harbors and creates multiple variations of content, and seeing so many people around me, albeit virtually, actively trying to channel all their unused energy into something positive and people-binding inspired me greatly,” says Subhalakshmi Dey, journalist and student of Jadavpur University, when asked about how she rediscovered her hobbies and found a space for it online.
The pandemic has forced us to largely spend our time online. The need for physically distancing oneself has led to finding like-minded people on the internet and seeking more digital interaction. While it has certainly been exhausting, being online all the time, it has also provided time for exploration and rediscovery of hobbies, as people have suddenly found themselves with more time on their hands.
With this being a common thought among many, there has been a growth in virtual communities across various niches and social media platforms.
When Adrija Dutta, a third-year microbiology student completed her first sewing project on her grandmother’s old sewing machine, it was like a breath of fresh air and a break from the monotony from everything coming to a disturbing halt. The pre-pandemic life was certainly an extremely busy one, to the point where one’s hobbies often seemed like liabilities.
While online work and school has been equally, if not more exhausting, spending large amounts of time online has not been entirely detrimental for many.
“I discovered a huge art community on Instagram and seeing so many beautiful pieces and so many people coming online to post their work, inspired me to start an art account and pick up my paintbrushes”, Sumedha Ganguly, a high school student mentions. Like her, there have been several others who have discovered such online communities during the pandemic and subsequently, got inspired to become a part of them.
Communities related to fandoms, aesthetics, popstars, books and more have thrived on various social media platforms, letting individuals to come together and watch others create, as well as to share their own creations. Furthermore, compliments and validation are amazing boosters that drive creativity and the safe space of a like-minded online community, has led to the flourishing of budding talents as well.
With more time on hand, and with an increased online presence, there have also been more learning opportunities. As a part of the various online communities, one can also get inspired by others, learn from them, and seek help whenever needed. Madhurya Ray, a student of Delhi University, states, “I have always admired makeup artists and the content that they put out online. Although I had started a YouTube channel and an Instagram account primarily dedicated to makeup, beauty and lifestyle before the lockdown, with college and work, it was never really possible to dedicatedly do it until I got some time last year. All the beautiful content online in the community I am interested in, greatly inspired me”.
Mrittika Mallick, a blogger, also says how, for the first time, she learnt the intricacies of blogging when she finally had some time on her hands during the first lockdown. Since then, she has tried to articulate her thoughts online and create a space for herself. With hundreds and thousands of tutorials, instructional videos and virtual resources, it is easier for a person to follow their passions in an online space and also share it with others.
“It has certainly not been an easy journey during the pandemic, and it is definitely a privilege to be able to pursue one’s hobbies in these difficult times but nevertheless, they have also helped many in coping with such unprecedented times,” says Debabratee Dhar, a student of English Literature, who is excited about her new found love for candle-making.
“I started candle making on a whim, after coming across a couple of YouTube tutorials. I think the driving force behind picking up this new skill was my desperate need to fill my time with something that would make me happy. So, one afternoon, I crushed up some candles I had at home and threw in some crayon shavings in a container and tried making one. Since then, I have taught myself various techniques and effective ways to go about it. I have to admit, each candle I make fills me with a lot of joy and a sense of accomplishment, which is so rare in these frustrating and trying times”, she adds.
Though the internet is a great space to cope with the pandemic induced isolation and restricted interactions, it is not always a smooth affair. Sumedha also mentions how it became too much to maintain an art account after a while, especially with studies and other obligations that became more demanding with time.
There can certainly be pressure to meet up to the expectations of a previous post or the last posted video, especially when you are seeing content being constantly churned out. With things like workplaces, schools and colleges opening up, the pressure from various responsibilities has begun to mount, once again.
Nevertheless, it is perhaps important to remember the moments of joy that these hobbies have given us at one of the most difficult and unprecedented times we have perhaps ever encountered.
Subhalakshmi mentions, “I am not as unhappy now as I used to be when the lockdown first started. I have worked hard to make my skills better, and I know that there is at least a small part of this online audience that I owe so much of my personal self-growth to, who wait for my stories and songs, and remind me I am not alone.”
At the heart of this is essentially a search for joy, satisfaction and a sense of belonging in intensely shifting times where disconnection has been a pertinent issue.
Sudarshana is currently pursuing her Bachelors in English from Jadavpur University. When she’s not procrastinating or falling victim to impulse retail therapy, she can be found learning new languages, fangirling over her favourite kpop acts and daydreaming about herself as a future magazine editor. She rediscovered her love for painting in the past year and is excited to work on new projects
Featured Image: Ritika Banerjee for Feminism In India