by Lydia Waruszynski, M.Ed
As the coronavirus casualty numbers rise worldwide, life as we once knew it now feels completely upended. Millions of us find ourselves braving a new normal these days, having no choice but to adjust to imposed lifestyle restrictions while we try to allay our fears of isolation and the unknown. Shops and schools have closed. Travel and public gatherings are basically banned. Restaurants and theatres are empty. More and more people are being asked to work from home. Some have been laid off. Some continue to work for the greater good (thank you front-line workers!) while the less fortunate have lost their jobs. Routines have been disrupted. Plans have been cancelled. Words like quarantine and lockdown have become part of our daily lexicon. So, too, has “wash your hands!” And, peculiarly enough, toilet paper is now the Holy Grail. This is uncharted territory for most of us and for the first time in modern democracy, there is a moral imperative to sidestep our individual freedom and collaborate together so that we may flatten the curve of this pandemic-level virus and eliminate community spread.
Welcome to the altruism of social distancing
This is a new period in our history and it's difficult on many levels. In the medical midst, while we hold anxious vigil until a vaccine is found, we also find ourselves fighting a social recession. This is a big deal because human beings are social creatures at heart. We are relationally-oriented and networked to community. In fact, studies show that our lives depend on it. In the 21st century, loneliness is often referred to as the “modern-day epidemic”….the most common ailment of the modern world. Hard to believe we live in lonely times given the quick access we have to television, internet and social media these days. Why, one would say there are all sorts of possibilities for human interaction in the digital age! Not so fast… Studies continue to remind us those who substitute online relationships for real relationships increase their levels of loneliness. The truth of the matter is that people can feel even more disconnected when habitually found retreating to their screens. Virtual relationships may fill a gap, but, for many, they often feel more superficial, leaving less room for genuine belonging and community connectedness. Solace on the internet is minimal at best.
With less and less face time, there’s no better time for FaceTime
As social distancing reshapes how we connect, we now need to not only rethink how the human element has been hijacked by online technology, but much of how we are using our present technology, and to use it well. Yes, especially now with social distancing being sanctioned upon us, never has social media become more important to our lives. Because now we really need each other. We need more than just respond to our online notifications. We need to address our fears. Our loneliness. This time social media needs to be our intimate friend. Our source of news. Our information. Our place for conversation and connection. Our village of social and emotional support. Our bridge to collective community. Our home. It needs to serve a purpose, rather than just an escape from reality. To help check in on our loved ones, our family and friends. To engage authentically with what is going on for others. To finally reach out to those we’ve been meaning to touch base with but somehow “never got around to doing so”. To offer comfort, some laughter or just a bit of distraction from all the stress and uncertainty; to share our thoughts, feelings, ideas and especially our hope to emerge from this calamity soon. Ramping up our virtual communication and reaching out intentionally -and compassionately - can help replace some of the physical proximity and contact we now find losing with one another. Be it via Facetime, Skype or even chats on Facebook Messenger….no matter. Just, this time, let’s make it matter. This crisis can be our invitation to transformation: to look out for each other and to pull together and maybe finally begin using technology in a more mindful and meaningful way.
Ironically, the most socially responsible thing to do right now is to avoid mass gatherings and to keep our 6-foot distance when out and about, to preferably stay at home, to isolate, to bide our time because we cannot risk harming someone by the simple act of reaching out for acknowledgement- be it through a shake or squeeze of a hand, a touch, a kiss or a hug. As we all take part in slowing the spread of the coronavirus, let’s not panic, rather take to heart, that the love, respect and kindness we demonstrate to others- may actually leave us feeling even more connected than ever before, just with the way we choose to communicate today while we stay apart.
Hi, I'm Lydia- a modern-day warrior of the heart with a mission to reconcile the mystery and mastery of Love.