First, I just want to express my hope that you are all healthy and in good spirits as you read this. Now, I want to continue to write about the big white elephant that is trampling the world–the coronavirus. One of the unfortunate side effects that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is not warning us about the coronavirus is the social isolation and loneliness that accompanies it.
I work at an organization that hosts events large and small. Due to policies aimed at containing the spread of the virus, all events for the next few weeks have been cancelled, postponed, or moved to an online format. The cup-half-full part of me is relieved–my work load has become less about encroaching deadlines and more about fine tuning existing projects. However, the cup-half-empty part of me is afraid that I will strongly feel the effects of little socialization.
I imagine that social scientists and psychologists are guiltily eager to use the pandemic as a case study in human socialization. At a recent staff meeting, a senior member spoke up and reminded us to keep in touch with the older people in our lives. Individuals over 60 and those with health conditions are urged to isolate themselves to protect against infection. If we must hide ourselves away, we may not get our daily dose of human interaction that is necessary to keep our spirits up. My colleague encouraged us to call older family members and those who are confined to their homes during these uncertain times.
2020 is my year of trying new things and self betterment. In accordance with my goals, I have been signing up for activities left and right. Now, instead of getting excited about event emails, I frown when my inbox pings me to another cancellation or postponement notice. I believe that it is our social responsibility to do all within our power to minimize infection to our fellow human, however, I still can’t help but sigh when my once busy weekend lineup has become two empty squares on my calendar.
I am an introvert, but still a social creature. I recently received an email from organizational leadership that all employees that have the capacity to work remotely must start doing so. To be honest, I’m not terribly upset about this, however, it does take out a big chunk of socialization that I have grown accustomed to and, at times, have even enjoyed. No more water cooler conversations, awkward hallway “heys,” or unnecessary restroom chatter. In times of trouble, uncertainty, and fear, it is important to stay a source of positivity in your own life and (ideally) in the lives of others. As long as I remain healthy, I will do my best to continue to stay outside of my home (taking necessary precautions to keep myself and others safe). I am lucky to still have my health, but I’m not invincible, so I will enjoy my freedom to roam and linger as I long as the option is still viable.
Having a community is especially important during hard times. I want to be a community builder. I am currently thinking about ways to connect with others virtually for meaningful online engagement. In California gatherings of more than 250 people have been outlawed and in NYC events of 500 or more are strictly verboten. Even small non-essential gatherings are discouraged and people are urged to keep their distance from one another in confined spaces.
The novelty of this virus makes it difficult to predict how long or how hard it will hit. As a community, we are doing the right thing by sacrificing our entertainment and convenience for the sake of mankind. I know that I sound dramatic, but seriously, if you are not worried about getting sick because “you’ll live” consider yourself privileged. Some people are literally fighting for their lives right now and others are risking theirs to do the essential jobs necessary to run society. Some people are struggling to make ends meet, take care of children, and keep themselves healthy. If your biggest concern is that your concert or vacation was cancelled, I am so happy that you still have your health and hope that you will also gain some perspective. These policies are hard; sometimes impossible for those in tough economic positions, however, if these restrictions can help mitigate the effects of this horrible disease, then let’s abide by them and figure out how we too can help stop the spread of infection.
We are all on the same human team. This virus is the alien invasion that is supposed to unite nations, compel us to drop our arms, and encourage us to open a dialogue with our adversaries in the desire to do good for the world. We all have a piece of responsibility in this big, complicated puzzle. If washing our hands, staying home when we feel unwell, and letting health services know when we suspect infection are all that is needed to save lives, I hope we can all see it in our best interests to be heroes.
I hope you all stay well, Dear Reader. Wash your hands, call your friends, and never stop seeking out sources of hope and community during this time.