Lonely in Lockdown
Written by: Johann Cardenas, 2nd Year BioinformaticsPhoto by: Yasmina H on Unsplash
I’m sure I’m in the same boat as a lot of university students when I say I’ve felt lonely during this pandemic. It’s been over 10 months since classes were moved online in March of last year. Since then, for many of us, our primary mode of interacting with our peers has been through Zoom meetings and OWL forums. Personally, this is really isolating - sometimes I feel like I’m taking a class all by myself. The pandemic has given me time to realize that I should have appreciated the in-person interactions I’ve had pre-COVID a lot more, both with my friends and with my classmates.
One thing that I dislike about the current situation is that every social interaction I have is scheduled in advance, whether it be for work, school, or club meetings. I miss running into my friends at the line for Tim’s, or them interrupting my studying to say “Hi” and ask how my day is going. I miss having a genuine social connection with someone, face to face. It can be hard to see the nuances of someone’s expressions through a low-quality webcam; it’s even harder when they don’t turn on their cameras at all.
There aren’t any of those spontaneous conversations this year. Now, we have to reach out to our friends, but reaching out virtually can be hard. For one thing, it takes time. Many people are too busy with online school as it is to schedule a conversation between friends. Not only that, but spending the entire day in front of the computer screen can be extremely fatiguing. I’ve had days where I spent 6 hours in Zoom meetings - another video call would have been the last thing I wanted. Finally, at least for me, there’s an element of insecurity that comes with reaching out. It’s a lot easier to talk to people when they’re right in front of you and have made eye contact, but a lot harder when it’s over text and you haven’t spoken in months. There are feelings of guilt and self-doubt involved: I feel bad that I haven’t reached out to them in so long, and worry that they even care as much about the friendship as I do. Even when you do reach out, it can be hard to keep a conversation going. People are busy, and often text conversations are pretty low on the priority list.
It’s not only harder to maintain friendships this year, but also to make new ones. Last year, I made a lot of my friends through lab partners and talking to whoever I sat next to in lecture halls. Now, that just isn’t possible. As someone who knows no one else in their major, this can make school feel even more isolating than it already was. To me, university is exciting because it’s an opportunity to expand your relationships and meet a wide variety of people who share your interests, as well as people with different ones. The inability to do this is one of the more disappointing things about online classes.
This school year hasn’t been all that bad though. I’ve met a lot of interesting people through my extracurricular activities this year, and I’ve been grateful for that. It could really be worse for me; I’m thankful that I live with my family and that I’m in a long-term relationship, such that I can turn to them whenever I need company. Additionally, I’ve been working on reaching out to friends, even though it can be difficult sometimes. Even when that loneliness persists, I can live with it because I recognize it’s a necessary sacrifice to keep my community safe, and to make sure we’re not in lockdown again next year. The pandemic has reminded me of the importance of all my relationships, and that I shouldn’t take them for granted. If you’re missing your friends during this time consider reaching out - chances are they feel the same way.