Community in the age of COVID-19
We have entered a new era of change where the news and our minds are flooded with talk about the corona virus. I've taken the opportunity to reflect on it's impact on my life and what I have been doing to overcome the uncertainty of everything.
It’s been just days since universities all around the world have moved to online classes and turned students away from housing. Student organizations have canceled events, graduations are planned to be virtual and senior weeks have been canceled; with all of this happening, one can’t help but feel that all the fun parts of university fun are gone.
Humans are social creatures; socializing helps us destress, exposes us to new ideas and provides a sense of comfort in our lives. Within universities, most of this social interaction tends to happen in student organizations and societies, they act as a core function and I believe they are vital in fostering community and creating a culture on campus. Since seeing an increase in the rate at which COVID-19 spreads, student organizations have canceled events and opted for virtual events. While a good plan, I feel like virtual events most often don’t have the same impact compared to in-person gatherings. There’s a certain energy, spontaneity, and inclusivity that is created during in-person social interaction that gets lost during video conferences.
For me personally, I thrive in social situations, my biggest motivator is the people around me and those I love. Without this support and interaction in my life I’ve found my motivation and productivity levels dropping, I’m more easily lost in thought and I find it hard to focus on work. Despite only wanting to be around people I still understand that in the current climate the last thing people should do is sit in a room with a group of people for extended periods of time.
In recent meetings, the majority of participants have opted to phone in rather than sit in meeting rooms together. I’m in no way saying that this is an overreaction, in fact, I think that the decision to take events, meetings, and classes online are extremely responsible and an excellent preventative measure to help and protect those most at risk. In spite of this, it is hard to ignore the increase in isolation and the decrease in human interaction that we all must be feeling.
My biggest concern is, how can we maintain authentic human interactions and continue to foster growth within communities regardless of the panic and isolation that has fallen over the general public? I personally haven’t been able to answer the question just yet. It’s a conversation I’m still having with myself and the people around me.
Regardless, there are some things I have been doing to keep peace within myself during this time. For starters, I’ve been working on changing my mindset, treating this period not as something I’m being forced into, but as an opportunity. There are countless times I have wished to have more time to spend on passion projects. Due to COVID-19, we have literally been gifted weeks where we are told to cancel the social events which take up our time after work or school. In my case, I’ve even had to quit my internship; giving me an opportunity to write, read and learn about other things that aren’t covered in my degree.
While a cliche statement, it really is important to remember that you aren’t alone in all of this. We live in an era where we have seemingly unlimited access to technology; while talking to a friend on FaceTime may not be the same as getting a coffee it doesn’t mean it’s any less authentic. I’ve even seen an influx of emails from friends and family with resources, articles, and tools to peruse through. I must say that it’s given me a brand new appreciation for my inbox.
What I mean to say is that while this may be a scary, changing world we are living in and while we may not be able to live the lives we’ve been used to and the ones we want, it’s important to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. We all have a social and moral responsibility to physically stay away from others and limit the spread of the virus, but we are not limited in reaching out to each other using technology and other social platforms. We have an opportunity to connect in different ways, which I think is really exciting.
COVID-19 will change the way many things operate, and while change is scary; however, it can pave the way for innovation, progress, and a new way of thinking. I urge you to take this period with open arms and allow yourself to remain patient. Good things might be just across the horizon.