Stop Being Pandemic Polite

We are not connecting.

Let’s just call a spade a spade here and be blunt for a second…
I don’t care how many likes, heart emojis, or retweets you show me. Digital validation is not friendship. Social approval is not connection. Unless, of course, it’s backed by action. Because, the truth is actions – even from 6 feet away – speak way louder than words.

We’ve all downplayed this disconnection with the playful pandemic phrases:

  • Days are actually years
  • Every week at home is a decade
  • Time is nonexistent and never-ending all at once

We say these things with a laugh at the end to soften the conversation and then go about our days. But, the truth of it is, each subtle statement is a small cry for help. We want out of this uncertain cycle. We want our days to just be days again. We’re over aging a week in an hour. And, no matter how light-hearted we try to be, we’re all feeling the weight of things. It’s heavy to constantly be in a state of blurred digital “realness”.

Breaking Out of the Blur

Don’t get me wrong, to an extent it’s necessary. You can literally only be so close to someone right now. Which quite frankly just sucks because now more than ever we yearn to feel close again. But, at the core of it are the facts: the pandemic is incredibly real and all the precautions we have to take to stay safe are real. So, as the months wear on us our connections with one another have started to feel less real. And here’s why: we’ve forgotten how to show up for each other.

Hear me out…as the months have worn on this pandemic has rippled through every facet of our lives. On a strictly social level, the pendulum has swung from one side of the connection spectrum to the other. In the beginning, we all leaned in hard to the zoom calls, virtual friend
dates, social positivity, and constant digital contact. But as time ticked by excitement waned. The reinvigorated bonding time started to take a toll. For some the positive posts started to feel like personal affronts or completely detached from reality. When life kept throwing curveballs and disappointment no one believed that person whose highlight reel was all smiles. Then, even friend check ins slowly slipped from deep conversations to checking the box. As everyone’s struggles deepened, we stopped understanding how to address our own emotional exhaustion while also being supports for each other.

Let’s be clear: none of this is intentional. We’re all just trying to survive. Part of being in survival mode (which we all are at this point) is looking out for yourself first. As they instruct you on every flight, you need to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping those around you. It’s a basic human instinct and we’re all guilty of doing this because we all have to do this to recover. Pandemic life is unknown and unsustainable. If you don’t look out for yourself there’s no possible way to get through this chapter. However, on the other side, we’re also people who need community and if you stop fostering that you also risk loss.

So, where’s the solution?

How do we stop feeling like the spinning wheel on our computer screen constantly buffering and find a way to really reestablish connection?

Spoiler alert: I don’t know.

No (Wo)man is an Island

What I do know is this: no man (or woman) is an island. And, in order to rebuild we have to go back to basics. We need to begin with recognition. Sometimes meeting our own needs starts by realizing they’re not so different from the person (maybe not physically) next to us. For me, this
means recognizing the difference between compassion and checking the box. When am I sending a “how you doing” text that is merely a transaction? Instead of texting, can I pick up the phone and really listen? Because, when I act with compassion I’m putting my mask on first
(sidenote: I’m also literally doing this because it’s the most basic act of kindness we can do at this point).

It’s recognizing our desires aren’t all that unique. I guarantee we have all found ourselves feeling isolated and wondering if anyone cares. We’ve all also likely felt some degree of guilt thinking this way, because to some extent we tell ourselves we’re doing better than someone else. In doing this, we compare away our need to rely on each other. We assume telling someone else what we’re struggling with is a burden and stay silent. And slowly that mutual silence will become deafening.

We “like” someone’s post when they share a fragment of honesty, but do we then follow up? Or, does that “like” literally just become another check the box?

Can you reach out and ask the person on the other side of the screen all the questions you wish someone would ask you? Can you create a space for someone else to lean on you so that they remember what real connection feels like again? Then, just maybe, they will pay that same action forward for someone else.

Let’s stop sending friend requests and start going back to requests of the friends we already have. Because, if you’re anything like me, I’m pretty sure you miss those real conversations over dinner where hearing from a friend – really hearing from them – never felt like a burden at all. In fact, those were the most welcome friend moments of all because the person across the table truly trusted you. And, in return, you felt valued. You helped them by being there and knew they’d return the favor when you needed them.

Right now, we need each other. Let’s put our masks on together.

Let’s stop being pandemic polite and start getting real again.

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