This challenging year will leave its mark on the way we interact with one another, on the way we work, on how we entertain ourselves and on how we choose to live our lives in general. Perhaps not in such a good way.
Yet another year is almost at its end. However, this year has been a lot different than most, especially for those born in western civilizations and are up to their 40’s — 50’s. In other words, those that belong to societies which have never known any real trying times, apart from maybe the financial crisis of 2008, the impact of which is still being felt in some countries throughout the world. But I digress.
COVID-19 came from literally out of nowhere to take away all of those things we considered granted in our everyday lives and left nothing but a wave of death, illness, fear and uncertainty in its wake. From the “oh, it’s just another ebola or zika virus” in early March, to the desperate cries towards politicians to maintain harsh lockdown restrictions throughout the world so that no more people get sick or worse, what this virus has done to our psyche could be a lot more devastating than the disease itself.
The daily influx of news articles about the increasing number of cases and deaths in almost every major city around the world, accompanied by stories of exhausted and desperate healthcare workers who are on the frontline, claiming that they have no more beds for the ill and almost nowhere to bury their dead, created a never-ending nightmare scene that there was simply no getting away from. For what could’ve seemed like the longest period of time, there was no evading that dreadful combination of word and number (COVID-19) while at the same time, there wasn’t even the faintest glimmer of hope that this would end anytime soon.
In fact, even now, almost 10 months (or for some, a whole year) after the first outbreak, certain areas still remain under strict lockdown with people unable to move 5km away from their homes.
You would think that people are tired of this. You would think that people wouldn’t want this. But no. It’s the people themselves that are asking for it.
After months of being trapped in their homes, unable to escape the stories about this new virus, people inevitably read and listened to their most trusted media sources to stay up to date with any recent developments. On a daily basis, they were fed with negative news that spread nothing but fear, doubt, uncertainty and anxiety. How could they even dare to think about a future where they could go out and meet with their friends somewhere outside when they might potentially become a carrier of a disease that could kill themselves or even worse one of their loved ones? And all that, without them even realizing it!
Naturally, people, with the full support of their local and wider governments, have isolated themselves into their safe spaces. They work from home, they find their entertainment at home, they shop from home, they have everything they need delivered to their doorstep (via contactless delivery of course!) they talk to one another from home through all their admittedly handy and practical devices… There’s no reason to go out there in a dangerous habitat and put themselves in jeopardy! Why would they?
Even now that the first vaccines are being rolled out, many are beginning to question their efficiency in an attempt to not be forced to leave their safe spaces. At the same time, several high-profile media outlets are doing their best to point out that not even the vaccines can keep us completely safe from the deadly disease. It will always be our best option to take care of ourselves.
So as we prepare to head to 2021, we do it in a world that not only is forced to self-isolate, but is now trained to do so out of fear. Which is basically terrorism. In many major cities around Europe, up until a few years ago, a great number of people refused to leave their homes due to the sheer volume of suicide bombings but also the unpredictability of the next attack’s location. This is the same principle.
Even if an effective vaccine is found (which it already has, the Pfizer vaccine is over 95% effective against COVID-19) and shared with most of the world’s populace, people will still refuse to leave their house because “…what if?” What if it’s still out there and they’re the ones that get it? What if they pass it on to their children or one of their family members and they become the ones that suffer? What if they live alone, get the disease and have no one to care for them? What if they have to miss work? How will they pay their bills? And the list goes on.
The anxiety caused, not mainly by COVID-19 itself but by the continuous influx of negative information has left a psychological scar on people that will take many years to heal, if it ever does. This need of self-preservation in front of an ever-looming threat, combined with the advancements in technology that allow them to cover most of their wants and needs without ever leaving their doorstep, are creating a distance between human beings that will inevitably grow wider with time.
Yes, you can see someone from your PC screen or your smartphone. You can chat with them on the various applications. You have your Facebooks, your Twitters, your Tinders, your Snapchats, and so on… Everyday it seems there’s a new app popping up for people to receive attention (a.k.a. “likes.)
But nothing will ever compare with the level of satisfaction of being up close with the people you care about. Your parents. Your children. Your significant other. Even your friends from work or your long-forgotten mates from high school. Catching up to tell stories, to see how they are, to pass the time with a few laughs and a couple of drinks… No amount of time online can compare to that. And it can’t be substituted by a Zoom call either!
“But is it really worth getting sick over?”, some doubters might argue. And there will be more and more of them in the coming days. There already are. The number of people choosing to isolate themselves during these days, the holidays, that are meant to be spent with the people you care about, not just for our selves, but for them as well, has increased dramatically.
It could also be said that COVID-19 serves as the perfect excuse for a lot of people dealing with social anxiety issues to further isolate themselves away from the world and not have to face their own problems. Instead, they are now the norm and anyone who may even be thinking about seeing their loved ones or being with their friends is considered the odd one out.
It’s really sad but, waking up simply to stay in bed all day long or alternating between the different rooms of your house or whatever show’s on Netflix is not really much of a way to live. It’s barely existing. And it is sad to see the world being bullied into choosing that way of life.
If this is how 2021 starts off, I don’t think we’ll want to see ‘22…