Online Everything

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Is this the real life?

This is not a rant about having to do everything online. Well, maybe it is a little. I’ll start off by listing all the ways in which the ability to conduct one’s business online is great–revolutionary even!

  1. Saves gas, time, money, planet
  2. You can wear your pajama bottoms whilst taking a class/conducting business
  3. You can show only your picture on Zoom so that nobody knows what you are actually doing
  4. You are free to stop pre-recorded stuff and go use the bathroom
  5. That’s about it. If you’ve got more, you may add it here.

Shopping online is so convenient, if you know what you want…exactly what you want. Website browsing is a rabbit hole down which I have been enslaved for hours. Asking if they can send a product to me so I can feel it is frowned upon. I like to run my fingers over the material, give it a shake, perform a tiny test of its durability. One is expected to do these things in a store. Online shopping is a sensory-deprived enterprise void of all information that is important to me. I must be content with the smell of the thing before I can allow its admittance into my home. I need to know if it will fall apart if I accidently knock it off the counter. Not every product available online has been subjected to my rigorous testing standards. Customer service representatives are confounded by my questions. Shopping in a store is no party either, but at least I am free to walk around and feel/sniff the merchandise.

Psst...she's hiding in the closet

Taking a Zoom class and (from experience) teaching one are exceedingly high on my Just Don’t Do It list. During the worst days of the pandemic, Zoom seemed like a lifesaver. One could chat with friends or have a low-key meeting or continue lecture classes. Those pottery, archery, trekking or guitar-making classes were doomed for Zoom. I lost out on a class in creative play. I guess the instructor just couldn’t figure out how to creatively play hide and seek online. We lucky ones who taught any type of movement arts got suckered into taking our expertise into the Zoom-a-sphere.

I was, at the time of our forced reclusiveness, conducting a tai chi class for the local council on aging. If I had been teaching a bunch of Millennials, I could have recruited one of them to help me with the Zoomy things which would have enhanced the experience of live online learning. I received a crash course in how to use Zoom in such a way as to maximize my ineptitude and alienate my senior-aged students. Many of them dropped out. Luckily, I was assigned a co-instructor who was able to assist those brave participants who decided to give it a go. All I had to do then, was to teach the class. Online…for twenty weeks. The learning curve expanded to such an extent, I could sit on top of it and still not see the end. We persevered. I was proud of myself for haven taken it on in the first place. Later I explained to the administrator why I would not ever consider teaching online again. We are finally getting back to in-person classes this spring. This meant I had to take my instructor re-certification class online.

In the interest of time and place, the recertification process is conducted in two distinct chunks. The first section conveys all the information I had previously learned in order to know how to teach a tai chi class. It was all pre-recorded and could be taken online at my leisure. About 20 hours of going over the form and principles of tai chi. Six quizzes, which could be taken as many times as necessary, completed the basic information portion. What followed was an all-day Zoomatorium.


The best thing about an all-day Zoomatorium is meeting people from all over. That I would not recognize them if they showed up at my front door the next day is inconsequential. They were all residing in lands far from my own and I will never accidently run into them at the grocery store resulting in a chat at the nearest coffee shop and the beginning of a long, friendly relationship. They were all very nice aspiring (or established) tai chi teachers like myself and we mostly listened to the instructor as to the bulk or deficiency in our collective knowledge from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm my time.

The worst thing that can be said about an all-day Zoomatorium is my tendency to want to: pee, eat, drink tea, take a nap, tell my dog to stop barking, stand up when we were sitting, sit down when we were standing, check the time on my phone, check to see if I had missed any texts on my phone, check Facebook, on my phone, to see what fun things my friends were doing while I was being held captive in a small room in my house . These are all the things I’d probably be doing even if the meeting had been in person, but on Zoom, it seemed like I could do them without annoying anyone else. And if I had annoyed someone, I’ll never see them again anyway. After the class was over, I had Zoom fatigue. It’s a real thing.

I'll get it...eventually

There are numerous other tasks that can be completed online at any time, day or night. My copyright registrations are submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office via a series of complicated pages–that is if I can find the proper type of copyright I am seeking on the list of available options. The procedure is always the same, but every time I get onto the website, I am confused by the sheer volume of offerings. I had no idea there was such a dizzying array of works one could safeguard. Databases, tv shows, video games, animation, photographs (even your own family photos!), music, lyrics, plays, artwork, jewelry, fabric, architecture, literary works (of which one has another withering list of types to choose from). My stuff falls under Short Online Literary Works, which is sometimes difficult for me to locate–even though I’ve already navigated this process about 20 times. Each foray into this particular website wilderness is months apart.

I save this chore for a day when nothing else needs to be done. My password is automatically voided at regular intervals, so the first thing I have to do is to reset my password and, this is the important part, remember to write it down or I’ll have to slog through that whole process all over again. I start this ordeal with a short meditation to quell my digital anxiety and to set me in a place of quiet dread. Once I navigate through the initial pages, I start to settle into determination mode. Read the instructions, remember what the hell I did last time I came through here and, most importantly, persevere beyond my normal limit of putting up with shit. It eventually gets done, which gives me a sense of relief along with a disproportionate amount of satisfaction, as if I’d just performed some sort of intricate, life-saving surgery.

So now you’re probably wondering how I manage to post a blog online every week. The best way to get proficient at something is to practice. I have been practicing for nearly 5 years now and still manage to find time to call my tech help Dawn whenever something gets snarled. The nuts and bolts of accomplishing a post are now old hat and I am mostly allowed to fly on my own. I sometimes even get the thing off the ground without a hitch, a feat of which I feel immense pride, beyond the amount in which I should be allowed to bask. I take my kudos from wherever I can nail them to the floor.

Real human, for now!

Now that much of life is conducted online, I find myself drifting back to the old ways of doing things. Gardening and preserving foods, meeting friends at the park and walking to the library are all in-person things I still enjoy. As a certified social security recipient (which I receive online) I fear much of human activity is being reduced to being conducted in an easier yet more isolating mode I don’t necessarily like doing something the easy way if it means my contact with the world outside my home is reduced to waving to the postman as I placate my wildly barking dog. In the future, we may receive all of our mail online. My predictions for the years ahead include online surgery, digital eating and virtual dog-walking. Someone is already working on it.

Steadfastly clinging to real life,



  1. Cheryl, thank you for the best inline essay I’ve ever read about living online.

    I think remote robotic surgery is already a thing.

  2. Bobbie Creager-Tolon

    Thanks for another commiserate read. I don’t find your Quote of the Week section, so I will give you this one from Kurt Vonnegut.
    [When Vonnegut tells his wife he’s going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says, well, you’re not a poor man. You know, why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don’t know. The moral of the story is, is we’re here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don’t realize, or they don’t care, is we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we’re not supposed to dance at all anymore.

    • Love that! It’s true, I need more going out to buy an envelope time. Also, if I receive one more offer through snail mail to buy insurance from a company whose primary business is NOT insurance, I’m going to write them a nasty letter. Or better yet, find their home base office and go in to complain in person!
      PS: Quote of the week went away as it added to my weekly online labors!

  3. I am frustrated by the automation prompts of doing things online.

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