Face-Time during COVID-19, by Katherine Pitts


Image by farhad.Guli (Creative Commons)

Face-Time during COVID-19

A creative nonfiction ethnographic piece inspired by Horace Miner

by Katherine Pitts (Emory University, C’22)

Introduction:  This project was aimed to provide a glimpse into the life of Emory students by promoting awareness of isolation and the importance of staying connected and finding normalcy in a highly disrupted world. COVID-19 has changed so many lives, and more than ever it is important to foster meaningful interpersonal connections in a time of social distancing. Written from the etic perspective of an anthropologist who peers into the lives of young women through a Facetime call, the piece sensationalizes mediocre activities with a documentary-like writing style. While the style is slightly satirical, it invites college students to take a step back and see parallels in their own lives. This short creative nonfiction piece was produced for ANT/THEA 377W “Fieldwork into Performance,” taught by Prof. Debra Vidali in Spring 2020.


A lyrical jingle fills the room as the small electronic device in my hand begins to vibrate. I poke the green circle labeled “accept” and four faces decorate the backlit display of the digital apparatus. My own face reflects back at me and I am aware of the expectant stares of three other young women anticipating my greeting. Many voices are heard at once and squeals of excitement emanate from the device. Mouths open and close in time with the projected audio as the women speak to one another. 

There is a casual informality to this meeting, with an underlying thread of sorrow. It appears that the physical separation of these young women produces a sense of distress. Most discussion is centered around an institution they call “Emory”. Perhaps Emory performs a governmental role to this group, dictating much of the happenings of their daily lives. As they further discuss Emory, it becomes clear that they lament their current situation of isolation. Sadness dampens their voices, almost palpable, and conversation trails to silence. Suddenly, the topic of conversation has changed.

Frantically scribbling field observations, I note a common uniform among the group: cozy, oversized clothing. Comfortably sprawled in their respective intimate quarters, the setting appears to bolster a sense of familiarity and rapport among each participant as they divulge their innermost feelings with one another. 

They perform tasks that appear to be ritual or ceremonial as their voices flow in and out of the conversation. One glides an item through her hair, a device that I hypothesize must be used to smooth and untangle the tight curls that frame her face. Another rubs a green gooey substance on her skin, only to splash it off with water a second later. The last performs a seemingly masochistic task, using a specialized, handheld instrument to pluck hair from her brows. 

As they engage in their particular tasks, summer plans are discussed, and from what I can gather, the changing of seasons also brings a lifestyle change. They begin to conspire, crafting intricate travel plans with one another. Promises of reunion and celebration sprinkle the conversation. The mood lifts and with it a newfound sense of hope emerges among the young women.

by Katherine Pitts (Emory University, C’22)