Naturally I tend to be on the shy side. I joke that I don't like social interaction, I am awful at parties and small talk. However, the current pandemic with the need for social distancing and staying at home, has enouraged me to reflect on what we actually mean by the terms extrovert and introvert. I suffer, well, I prefer to say I live with, depression and anxiety. Living in this time of lockdown has led to a worsening of that in some ways. This is true for so many people and it caused me to think clearly as to whether I should actually write this post. I am, after all, one among very many people. There is one thing that I think is worth sharing however. My study uses the theme of symbolic interaction, a theory embedded in the need for humans to be social beings. An enforced absence from my work colleagues, some of whom have become close friends has caused me to look at this in a new light. For all the benefits of social medial contact; zoom, skype (when it works!), the never-ending whatsapp messages, and houseparty etc. I have realised that what I miss most is spending time with people in reality. What makes being with someone in the same space different from being connected via a screen. I don't know, and I don't think I can explain it at the moment, but I think it is the missing of meeting with people in the flesh so to speak, that I am currently finding to be the most challenging part. I am grateful for my immediate family and the fact that I am lucky to have a house where we can be together and apart, we have a garden that I can walk up and down and get a reasonable amount of exercise. For all that, though, and I am sure it is because I am a slow learner, I am finding that I yearn to spend time with other people. I don't mean to party, just to spend time. I miss lunches with my wonderful friend and colleague, I miss walking down the corridors at Anson Building. I wonder if it is the physicality of life that I am missing. We are having to
live life partially, virtually at the moment in this perior of enforced social distancing, I am coming to the understanding that it is not about being introverted or extroverted; they are probably just behavioural traits. Rather as humans, we thrive when we are with others, sharing time and space with other humans. When that is limited, we suffer and the low mood is a symptom of that.
As a human, I am also a Christian. I have read on social media some of the varied ideas of some of my compatriots, calling for prayer hours, lighting candles in windows, to the very weird of claiming powers against a virus - a strand of RNA enclosed in a protein shell - . As a Christian, I too am afraid, I don't have any answers as to how this will pan out, I don't know how long we will be using tools such as social medial to maintain friendships. As a Chrstian, I don't have any simple words of faith to share, just a sense of hanging on in there and trusting that I am not alone.
Maybe, it is in that sense of trust, that there is a chink of hope, a small but sliver of light to show us that we can still be human in these hard times; that friendships built over lunches won't fail but will persevere; that relationship, though stretched, will continue.
It is in this strange time that I have come to understand clearer the need for social interaction as a human, of the deep but undeniable logic underpinning symbolic interaction. The need as humans to develop our own symbols to identify us; because it is in the loss of the things we do, the common behaviours that we carry out, that we lose a part of our sense of who we are and what we are. How we define ourselves as human in the absence of meeting, of sharing the same space with others, is the challenge as we bravely take the next faltering steps in our journey with Covid-19.
Stay well everyone. Live long and Prosper