We are told to get off our phones, get out more, talk to each other face to face, but the virus pandemic that is COVID-19 has caused us to force-reboot our lives. This is 2020, the year of vision and clarity, but the future is looking a little blurry.
When a virus we have never heard of impacts every aspect of our daily lives, the social cost of self-isolation, facemasks, distancing measures and lockdown has left many of us shell-shocked. Meeting friends, going to the gym, group hugging, queuing, signing for parcels, a handshake – the barriers are all up. Even buying headache pills and loo roll are proving a problem and this is affecting how we view others. Our normal has gone with no new normal right now, and that is scary.
There has been a great, collective effort to slow the spread of coronavirus and save more lives. However, we understand that the hands we use to send messages on our smartphones are now capable of spreading this terrible disease directly to our loved ones, the elderly and the vulnerable. Friends, family, colleagues, are all at risk. Socially, we are left with finding new ways of making connections, replacing office banter with remote-working chat and figuring out how to reinvent the spontaneous hug, giving a helping hand to a relative, or considering online gym classes. New technology has a role to play but may not suit everybody. It is also way harder to read faces when they are only on the end of a FaceTime call. Even talking face to face is an issue – no carefree popping to the shops together, meeting up at a café or planning a night out, or in – and also how we pay for things. Contactless has taken on a new meaning. Loneliness was already an issue for many.
So are we facing a complete social recession? We have disruption on a massive scale along with the threat of losing a loved one and even our doctors’ work is changing fast; the economy, jobs and livelihoods are all in the mix, but we are living our moment in history here.
How is all this drawing us closer? Well, new habits are forming. We value the things we maybe took for granted before. There appears to be less pollution in the air, no planes in the sky, we have opened our eyes to those in need we didn’t perhaps take time to notice before in our busy lives. There is a new sense of people’s stories and community worth, being better, doing things ourselves, creating safe spaces, working together via social media in a more selfless way, looking up more. It is not that we never did those things, it all just got amplified on a global scale and is far from being over.
There is hope. Just look at how our industries are linking up to switch from making cars and vacuum cleaners to ventilators for intensive care. Social contact could go the same way as we explore virtual togetherness in new and innovative ways. We are now questioning everything – the way we live, the ridiculousness of overcrowded commutes, looking after the vulnerable and how vulnerable we are to a virus which has caught us on snooze.
Making social ‘social’ again.
When all this is over, it could mean we value our sociability more, and see things more clearly through life’s lens. We will do all the things we missed most but will perhaps grow to love them more.
For now we will carry our hand-sanitizer (if we can get it) and let our hands be our friends and our friends be our hands. Closer, but not too close for now. Stay safe everyone.
Written by Cerys Jones
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