socializing in the covid era

2020-09-02

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~3 min read

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506 words

Telling someone that I have plans to see a friend later seems to raise a lot of eyebrows today. It feels like what was once a normal act now arouses suspicions of one’s sanity. That makes sense. These are not normal times and even seemingly innocent decisions can have huge consequences. We’re living in a fat tail.

I mention this because even I, who love solo activities and routine, can only take isolation for so long. My dad always says, “Variety is the spice of life.” Today, variety has been replaced with what Brad Feld termed “The Sameness”. Learning to allow for some flexibility in my routines has been one of the blessings in disguise of this whole mess, but even with the extra flexibility I’ve afforded myself, it’s not enough. I need to see other people.

NB: I’m not a epidemiologist, I won’t comment on what’s safe and what’s not, though I am trying to comply with the guidance while adding a touch of, what I hope is, common sense.

I am not going to a club or sitting at a bar. I’m avoiding crowds where possible, particularly inside. But, humans are social animals, a description I’ve felt more truly and deeply this summer than in any time before. Being with others is life giving. Not just for survival (sharing food, protection, etc.), but spiritually. Without interaction with others, our spirits whittle away1. Without seeing others, being with others, sharing with others, in a truly human way we get The Sameness or worse.

There’s a technological perspective here too. Technologies like Zoom and FaceTime are bringing people “face-to-face” even in an era of social distancing. But as much as I value them, they are poor facsimiles for the real thing. There’s absolutely a satisfaction from seeing someone you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see, but the halflife of that feeling seems much shorter than when you see someone in person and enjoy their company.

A few nights ago, my wife and I enjoyed one of the best nights we’ve had in weeks. Sharing food and drink with a friend on our patio, the sun set while we talked and our laughs filled the air long into the night. Our summer has been marked by a few such nights and each sustains me for weeks.

I don’t know if I simply took these sorts of nights for granted before because they seemed so easy to have or what. What I do know is that seeing friends, being with others, doing human things, is the best antidote I’ve found to The Sameness. Maybe that’s another blessing that will come out of this: a greater appreciation for the little things.

Footnotes

  • 1 To see some evidence of the deleterious effects of prolonged isolation, we can look at solitary confinement. No, I don’t feel like I’m in solitary confinement. I do, however, feel more isolated than usual. I’d argue this is less binary than a spectrum and we’ve moved the needle with social distancing practices.

Hi there and thanks for reading! My name's Stephen. I live in Chicago with my wife, Kate, and dog, Finn. Want more? See about and get in touch!