Maybe social distancing can bring us closer

Hannah Holliday | Cartoonist

Although we are isolated from one another physically, we can still make an effort to be there for each other.

When campus switched to online instruction, roommates, students, professors and staff were all torn from the schedules and campus that held them together. Everyone was forced to accept a new reality. Yet while these new circumstances look different for each person, every experience is challenging in its own way.

In a time like this, it’s important to extend grace and understanding to the people in your life; everyone has their own struggles and ways of coping.

A popular way of coping with the pandemic has been the widespread use of jokes or memes. Tweets about quarantine loneliness and mania have taken over Twitter. The image of Arthur character D.W. longingly looking in from a gated fence has been used to express missing public spaces. People have also remixed the iconic scene from Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” music video with her and her crush exchanging messages from their respective bedrooms, paralleling it with their social distancing experience.

The popularity of these memes shows that many of us are going through the same struggles right now. Yet all jokes aside, this pandemic has affected everyone directly and altered our daily way of living.

With the stay-at-home order, we can easily soak in our own anxieties and disappointments about our situation. Understandably, you are likely riddled with fears about the world, particularly your world. Even if you are not immunocompromised with heightened fears or an essential worker with daily obligations, you have your own burdens. You don’t have to dismiss your feelings or undermine your hardship just because you know that someone else may have it worse, but don’t let your narrative make you forget about the bigger picture, too.

We can easily fall into cycles of egocentrism without meaning to. In self-isolation, a person’s own thoughts become the most accessible thing to engage with. Stepping out of your own thought bubble is a reality check that is necessary to stay sane.

Unlike many other news-making events, COVID-19 has directly affected every single person in the United States and in countries around the globe. Even though it has altered each of our lives very differently, it has affected all of us nonetheless. It is not often that a whole population is personally affected by the same event all at the same time. This pandemic places us in an interesting setting in which we are bonded by our sudden strife yet separated by government-mandated distance.

Be there for your friends as much as you can emotionally muster. Recognize that social distancing is difficult for introverts and extroverts alike, and everyone is yearning for a feeling of community again. Find creative, new ways to spend time with each other, be it throwing a Netflix party, having a themed FaceTime call or playing silly virtual games.

Remind the ones you know who got laid off that they hold value and purpose outside of their jobs. Be a sympathetic ear and offer help however you can. Show empathy to all those struggling, no matter how their situation may be different than yours.

This time has brought unexpected circumstances to everyone: displacement, early goodbyes, financial insecurity, anxiety, sickness, even death. Be there for yourself, acknowledging the pain you feel, and be there for others too.