Why a Pandemic Is Bringing Out Our Best Online

Why a Pandemic Is Bringing Out Our Best Online

Hello and welcome! The pandemic has turned everything we know upside down, and we are relying on technology more than ever to work, go to school, stay informed, entertain ourselves and stay connected to people we love.

I’m Shira Ovide (pronounced OH-vee-day), and I’ll be your guide each weekday to how technology is transforming our lives and world — for better or worse. I’ve been writing about technology for the better part of a decade. I’m also a native Ohioan, a very bad cyclist and an enthusiastic tweeter.

There will be pieces about how technology is helping us stay close and protected — or not — during the pandemic. There will be insights into how big technology companies are dealing with our changing online lives. There will be tales of people doing the best they can with virtual life. I promise you will find joy and oddities here, too.

Many of you will note some familiar faces, like Charlie Warzel and Brian X. Chen; they and other stellar Times journalists will provide context for our strange times. Tell your friends (and your enemies) to sign up here. And we’ll have fabulous illustrations thanks to our visual editor, Jaspal Riyait.

You’re probably unsettled about the health and resilience of your friends, families, neighbors, country and world. Me too. Let’s feel our way through this together.

If you have feedback, please send it our way at ontech@nytimes.com.

Kevin: Yes, be boring! We’re all getting barraged with horrible news all day. We should all be legally required to post photos of our boring breakfasts. It’s what people used to knock Instagram for — “oh, it’s just people posting their avocado toast.” But honestly, that sounds amazing right now — imagine, an all-avocado-toast social network!

There are many people who need to work outside the home right now: doctors and nurses, postal carriers, online shopping warehouse workers, taxi drivers, autoworkers, supermarket employees. They might need the work — and we need the essential services they’re providing. But their jobs put them in harm’s way from being around other people, and potentially transmit illness to their families and others in their communities.

Some of them, including people who work for Amazon and the grocery delivery service Instacart, have been holding walkouts or other actions to demand higher pay, more safety measures including sanitation supplies, better communication with their bosses and more options to take off work if they’re sick.

These are not new issues in the United States, as the former New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse writes for our Opinion section, but they are more stark in a global crisis. What do companies, governments and all of us owe these workers? This is a question I’m wrestling with, and will be returning to often.

  • The first rule of pandemic life: THERE ARE NO RULES. “I have thrown off the shackles of screen-time guilt,” the Times reporter Nellie Bowles writes — hilariously. “My television is on. My computer is open. My phone is unlocked, glittering. I want to be covered in screens.”

  • “I met a ghost on my island who gave me a bidet.” Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the cheerful virtual world game we need right now. And the Verge has a sweet story about college students holding virtual graduations for “Quaranteen University” and recreating campus life in the Minecraft video game.

  • The pandemic is inflicting pain on many technology start-ups and their employees at a speed that defies comparisons, my colleague Erin Griffith writes. I’ll have more about this in tomorrow’s newsletter.

Rico the Brazilian porcupine. He loves apricots. He used to be bad at climbing, but now he’s not. This is a hopeful message! (The Cincinnati Zoo, which is doing daily virtual home safaris, was a frequent field trip spot for me as a kid.)

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