Getting locked up and unable to see friends and relatives, that’ wrong right? The answer depends on who you ask and how honest they are with their responses. Most introverts will pause for a moment and consider the statement before embarrassingly mumbling that it is not so bad. Yes, they miss their friends, of course, they do; but it is also great to have time to oneself. Some people may even state enthusiastically that having a clear social calendar with a valid excuse is pure bliss. Surely these guys must be introverts. About half of us are introverts, so in theory, half of us should be happy with the forced lockdown. In practice, however, it appears that a much higher percentage is content with the enforced social isolation.
Initially, and as soon as lockdown hit, it was easy to distinguish between the two groups. Extroverts immediately filled their calendars with Zoom and Houseparty invites. As amusing as these were in the beginning, their shortcomings soon became apparent, and both introverts and extroverts developed a dislike to the requirements of back to back 24/7 virtual social calls. With everyone trapped at home and idling, it became impossible to reject invites. With the usual excuses in short supply and everyone feeling that they must keep up their social calendars, these calls became a chore rather than fun. Isolated people of all ages clamoured for attention and social interaction, and in response to the barrage, many went into social media hiding. In search of mental tranquillity, one of my friends even swapped his iPhone for a Nokia brick.
There are many people -you know who you are- that continue to hide behind the threat of infection even now as the lockdown is easing. But is it only introverts that are lusting after lockdown’s splendid isolation? Apparently not! Several of my friends, who are considered social butterflies, appear to be very content hiding at home and only appearing in public on their computer screen. “It is liberating that I don’t have to keep up with clothes, makeup, and appearances”, one of them said to me in confidence. “I feel like I am on holiday from my public face and I can truly relax”, said another. “I don’t have to have plans or a date every weekend” she sighed with relief.
Have our social lives become a chore, and keeping up our appearance a job? Has this enforced break from both of these past times been a blessing rather than a curse? It would appear so.
Many celebrities have gone underground to hide their public personas that are crumbling without the assistance of hairdressers and beauticians. Without celebrities to emulate and polished friends to keep up with many people have sunk into a state of quiet relaxation. Especially the younger generation that has been plagued with the tyranny of Instagram seems to be benefiting from the current state of affairs.
With almost half a million dead, worldwide and millions left without work, it would be an anathema to say that I like the lockdown. My informal polling, however, has shown that many among us are feeling the same way. I have yet to find someone who has told me otherwise. Publicly, everyone is clamouring for things to return to normal, but what they think privately is a different matter entirely.
It is the universality of the situation that made this possible. It is not a private disaster; we are all in the same boat. Everyone’s business is suffering, and nobody can get a haircut or a dental appointment. We have all been forced to stop, examine our lives and perhaps our relationships and reflect on what we truly want out of life.
No, I cannot say that this lockdown is only the province of introverts. We all own it. Admittedly some have taken longer than others to face themselves honestly and what they are doing with their lives but the longer this social distancing goes one, more and more people are reverting to their true selves; who they were before social norms and life, in general, shaped their beliefs and desires.
Teenagers and very young adults are the ones having the hardest time during this pandemic because they are at the starting line of life’s race and raring to go. They have not had the time to be moulded into cogs in the wheel of the economy and society in general. These fledgeling adults have not been beaten down or mentally agitated because they cannot fit the norm or keep up with the rest. They still firmly believe that the world is there for them to have. Being shut away and made to wait is frustrating for most of them.
This is not the case for older adults. We are tentatively beginning to stretch our limbs outside our boxes and tasting the exhilaration that comes with reacquainting with ourselves. We can do no other than live in the present, and the benefits are palpable.
How much of this mindset will carry on after things return to normal? Will people lust after their relaxed mental state and look for ways to retain the effect? One would have hoped so, but as the lockdown eases across the country, there appears to be a rapid return to how things were before we shut our doors to the outside world.
It is still early days, and there may still be a second wave of coronavirus that will reinforce lessons learned, but one would hope that we will not waste this expensive teaching that we have collectively learned.
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