What's your social life going to look like?
Author: Kate Cross
COVID-19 has tested us on many fronts but perhaps none more so than our social freedoms. I know that I had never uttered the words “social distancing” until the pandemic hit, and I found myself missing face-to-face contact and settling for screen-based interactions (fortunate, we are to live in the age of video calls).
Ultimately, keeping away from each other in times of societal stress “runs counter to what evolution has hard-wired people to do: Seek out and support each other as families, friends and communities”, wrote University of Washington academics in a piece for The Conversation earlier this year.
But when this pandemic inevitably runs its destructive course, the dust settles and our freedoms are returned, what will social reconnection look like?
Counselling Psychotherapist and Relationship Expert Dr Karen Phillip says, “we simply don’t know what the full effects of this social isolation will have on people around the world and how long those effects may last”.
“COVID-19 is teaching all of us a lot,” she says. Besides learning how to connect differently, Dr Phillip says some relationships may be struggling with the apartness while others may be battling “too much connectivity in collective isolation”.
“Once the pandemic is over, some will remain more reserved at embracing and touching others,” she says.
However, for most people, Dr Phillip anticipates the handshake and embraces upon meeting to resume post-COVID-19 because “humans are social animals and enjoy being together”.
“Social interactions should positively replace isolation,” she explains.
The process of reconnection post-COVID
Undoing the social damage caused by COVID-19 mightn’t sound complicated, but complacency is a potential barrier.
Says Dr Phillip: “We may become complacent being stuck at home and not having to venture far. While we should be making an effort to remain connected during this pandemic, once over, visiting and reconnecting in person, where possible, to reignite our relationships is essential.”
Reconnection, she says, may take some effort but is important for physical and emotional health.
Indeed, Psychologist and Author of The Village Effect Susan Pinker wrote in her book that physical contact was essential for learning, resilience, happiness and even longevity.
Acknowledging the devastation
For some people, social reconnection might be a case of ‘picking up where we left off’ but for others, Dr Phillip says: “Recovery may be a long process”.
“Acknowledging our feelings both during the pandemic and after is vital for our mental health,” she says, adding that it’s important to listen to your friends and family and allow them to unload.
“Speaking to a professional counsellor can provide a more rapid restoration,” she adds.
Ultimately, Dr Phillip says: “COVID-19 will be discussed for generations. The experienced anguish, ingenuity and adjustments will provide narratives for decades. We all need to discuss how this pandemic felt to us, our lives and loved ones.”
If you’re struggling and need support, reach out to an appropriate mental health professional.