Peaks and troughs: The two sides of experiencing friendships in lockdown
Lost connection, or reconnection?
In a world where Zoom is the new night out and WhatsApp has replaced the pub, relationships have been strained or rekindled; friendships lost and found. What we do know is that we aren’t happy to continue on in this virtual reality we are currently forced to call life.
Zoom zoom zoom, I never leave my room
“Anyone up for a catch-up tomorrow eve?”
A message from the 19-person WhatsApp group buzzed my phone into a frenzy as 29 more messages ensued discussing when, in our extremely mundane lives, we’d ‘meet up’ and keep each other up to date.
During the pandemic, this once sporadic virtual group chat became a forever-pinging safe space for TikTok videos and memes to be shared, lockdown horror stories exchanged, alongside puppy pictures and terrifyingly satisfying face mask portraits. It was an aide keeping spirits high when the constant reminder of confinement caused those spirits to flail somewhat.
We’re all in this together
A hub for all drama, gossip and sob stories, the WhatsApp group allowed us to flourish and live vicariously through acquaintances from our highschool days. It became our sanctuary and organiser for the rendezvous at our new pub, The Zoom Inn. It brought us closer together, and killed the probable feeling that we were the most alone we’d ever felt.
Over 26 years on this Earth, my friendships have never held such prominence in my day-to-day life. In the years preceding 2020, our eventful, busy and socially demanding lives kept us apart for one otherwise-engaged event or another. This upheaval of our normal lives has meant we actually want to make the time and put somewhat of an effort into seeing those who make us laugh til our bellies hurt and dance til we can no more – until real life permits.
On the plus side, it gives you an opportunity to dance around with a glass of wine in your pyjamas, underwear or even commando. I dare you to tell me this is not what dreams are made of?.
Back in the real world
Speaking to Sky News, TV psychologist Honey Langcaster-James said how during this time of great fear and loss, we are reminded how we actually enjoy being with our friends and family and that transcends into how much we need each other now more than ever too. She adds, “In this new socially distant society, we are reminded that the presence of others can make life a little better, more enjoyable, and a whole lot easier, just by us being there for one another.” So, thank you pandemic, it probably shouldn’t have taken you to see how needy I am for my pals, but it is the only thing for which I will happily salute you.
Additionally, evolutionary psychologist Professor Robin Dunbar says, “Friendships can deteriorate very quickly if you don’t invest in them.” The truth of the matter is we’re now almost 12 months into the pandemic and countless lockdowns in. The pandemic forcing us to only communicate through our phones and not in real life has made the idea of investing in a friendship a lot harder than before.
Left on read
Looking at my phone and seeing the group chat pop off in the early months of this pandemic filled me with joy. I was amused by the attempts of my closest friends trying headstands on pillows and enjoyed slagging off people’s incessant posting of their 5k runs, but soon the novelty started to wear off.
It began to dawn on me that not everyone in the group chat was joining in on the fun. As soon as I’d realised only about 70% of my friendship group were responding and interacting, I couldn’t stop thinking about what the others were up to.
We were locked inside, the pandemic was at its peak and the only exciting thing in our lives was the launch of Disney+. So, what could they be doing? If they weren’t replying to what must have been thousands of messages racked up on WhatsApp, were they just being rude?
As our social lives disappeared, replaced with faux parties on Zoom and relentless group chatting, the reality was this new way of life did not suit everyone. For many, surrounding ourselves with technology at this time was just too much. Our phones and laptop screens acted as a portal into the pandemics news desk, churning out an everlasting stream of information regarding the current state of our world.
Daily updates broadcast from an apocalyptic looking desk at No.10 brought updates of only negative and scary news. My friend told me they were sending her anxiety through the roof. When I asked why she hadn’t been responding to the group chat, she said she’d found the last couple of weeks very overwhelming and staying off all social media helped her cope with what was happening in the world.
Did I blame her? No. At the time I thought it was understandable, but I also hadn’t quite grasped the concept that this pandemic was going to exceed a couple of months spent indoors. At that point I don’t think anyone had. It wasn’t clear to me then that apart from a few fleeting summer meetups, for the friends that had opted to abstain from interacting on their mobile phones: their friendships were no longer going to be as present in my life as they once were.
All we can do now is dream and look forward to one day reuniting (in real life) when this shit-show of our so-called roaring 20s is over, and we are finally able to rekindle those long-awaited friendships.