Grief & Disbelief

Lo Ra
4 min readApr 27, 2022

Early in the pandemic, I made the decision to abandon social media.

In the months leading up to my purge, I was the most active I had ever been in online spaces. It was early 2020 — the onset of COVID-19 — and I was desperate for any and all connection I could get. My brain waves lusted after the rush (or maybe the numbness) of limitless scrolling and two-line exchanges with familiar strangers. And for the most part, there was a feeling of comradery with a taste of what I accepted to be “community”, at least in the forced isolation of the early pandemic.

But then, something changed.

After the explosion of discourse and racialized aggression that followed the murder of George Floyd, virtual spaces became a breeding ground for Black traumatization. I, like other Black folks, was belligerently bombarded with images and words representing generations of unhealed systemic wounds. In my online world — where my non-Black once-friends spoke most freely about what was happening or refused to speak at all — the substance of my “community” became more real. The heated protests and political tension held mirrors to our relationships, showing me the true colors of empty allegiance, unprocessed heartbreak, and (white) guilt.

Around that time, my then-home in the Pacific Northwest was reflecting the same dissonance as my online world. In my walks through “progressive” Portland neighborhoods, almost every window and a few yards hosted their own specialized “Black Lives Matter” / “In Our America…” / “We Believe…” signs. Paltry signals of connection to a shared political identity valuing inclusion and alliance.

When I would see those signs, I’d wonder: Are these the same people re-posting desensitized images of Black murder or policing the ways we grieved in comment sections? Their signs cannot stand in as answers to these questions. Like on social media or in day-to-day interactions, the performance of allegiance staves off exactly what is being sought: connection.

Coming to terms with my relationships online and in the PNW was an exhaustive process. Occasional sensations of fatigue and despondency became regular occurrences, and eventually my body met my mind in the understanding that it was time for a break. Something was going to give, and it was proving to be my mental health.

Shortly after pausing my social media accounts, in the middle of this global pandemic and in a true-to-self act of masochism, I moved across the country. I wanted to escape the white hell of the PNW and answer my plea for community. The timing in my social and professional world felt right, so I packed up what I could (physically and emotionally) and left for Chicago.

In the perfect world of my mind, I saw my hopes for connection fulfilled in this new space. I knew the people I wanted to re-connect and build deeper relationships with. I saw visions of the communal space we planned on building and the creations we saw ourselves sharing.

What I eventually learned was that the relationships I was reengaging in were built on rituals of performance I had perfected over the years. As such, performative community was not something I could escape from by moving across the country or leaving social media.

It became harder for me to reconcile my new needs for cultivating community with those from my past, and for a while I saw this holding me back from connecting. Why can’t I just hang? Why do I care so much? Why is it so much easier to be alone?

I know now that this was exactly how I was supposed to feel. This was me coming to grips with the terms of my escape from performative connection.

Performing is a thoughtless act for those of us who aren’t allowed to feel — either by internal or external forces. In the recurring break-downs / build-ups of my last couple of years, allowing myself to feel the grief and disbelief of the moment I was existing in was my saving grace… even when it felt like a never-ending fall.

Moving to Chicago and leaving social media wasn’t the escape after all, but rather a catalyst for self actualization — providing me the perspective I needed to reaffirm my growing desire to find new ways to connect and build community.

As I re-enter online spaces, I’m starting to put these reflections into practice. Social media isn’t my escape, but it can be a tool for engaging with purpose. Whereas my past creative / intellectual / social partnerships thrived in the absence of intentional attention, my new consciousness is stingy with satisfaction. Now, I have to think about what I am bringing into and taking away from my relationships. I have to examine the ways I perform love / trust / vulnerability, and from there critical thought and action.

I have a feeling that this is where my connection — my transformation — begins.