Emotional Connection and COVID-19
As we embark on engaging in some semblance of our prior selves, we do this cautiously. Physical distancing has been one impact, social distancing another, and I do see those as different concepts, what about our emotional connection to others. Ella and I were engaging in this discussion and our human need for social connection and the absence of presence and language when engaging in this "distancing". Removing physical and social presence can also leave an emotional "gap" . Read Ella's thoughts and experiences when venturing to the outside...
As Australia moves into a different phase of the COVID-19 pandemic – with lockdowns easing and being able to reconnect again with family and friends in a social distancing manner, life is resuming and taking on a new “normal”. However, I noticed that one critical element in society has not be impacted by the pandemic – our social and emotional connectedness, or lack of, with strangers. Prior to COVID-19 we would go about our day (despite my many attempts to be present, I, myself are guilty of this transgression), with our heads down, faces plastered to our phones, failing to look around and take notice of the world and the people around us. This made me consider, although COVID-19 created a physical isolation and distance for society, it also highlighted that a societal and emotional distance was already present in our everyday lives, and sadly, I have noticed that not much has changed post-pandemic.
I took a walk over the weekend to gain some much-needed vitamin D, because between study and self-isolation, my complexion was starting to rival Snow White and I was forgetting what the outdoors and the sky looked like. During my trek along the winding path of the walking strip, as I engaged in the “new normal” social distancing dance, sidestepping my fellow walkers to ensure we maintained the 1.5m distance, I noticed a reality that was still present – we were still emotionally distant from each other. Despite my attempts to smile at strangers, and to acknowledge the individual and convey the message that “This is to ensure we are protecting each other”, not one person raised their head to look at me, acknowledge my presence, to catch my eye to say “I see you” or smile as a way of emotionally connecting. Honestly, I felt a little like Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
It was a strange sentiment, although we have all been practicing social distancing for the last couple of months, and it has become second nature now, I was hoping to regain some sense of connectedness to strangers and the world on my walk, however, I still felt a sense of emotional isolation. Reflecting on this feeling, I realised that even prior to the pandemic, our lives and our societal emotional connectedness were not that much different. We all went about our day, rushing around, heads down, focusing on our busy schedules that lay ahead, consumed with our own thoughts that we failed to stop, and look up and be present in the world. The only difference now is that we have all have had to experience the physical isolation that went with the lack of emotional connection. To some degree, we all existed in a vacuum. As a society, we equated physical proximity to equal inclusion, and a requirement for connection, however, just because we were physically present, were we really ever truly connecting with each other?
Maybe now, as we emerge from isolation, and we are back to some regular form of physical connection with strangers, we can realise and appreciate the cost of being cut-off from one another, and the emotional void this created in our lives. Can we take this experience and try to implement some changes in our own life?
When we are out and about, and side-stepping people to maintain that 1.5m distance, maybe we can try and be present anyway we can. I know I am more conscious of my actions now and I am trying to implement simple changes, such as looking people in the eye and smiling, and saying hello as I pass others in the street. These simple acts can make a big difference and may change the course of someone’s day. Although our current situation remains that we still need to maintain a physical distance, we can surely try and bridge the emotional gap in society that was there long before COVID-19 infiltrated our lives.