Zoom, Houseparty and FaceTime have certainly seen a spike in their number of users in the last six weeks. We’ve all scheduled a family happy hour or game night to keep in touch with our friends and loved ones. While I love a virtual glass of wine with my family, I’m reminded of the monumental value we have in being connected right now. We have the opportunity to be with someone at the click of a button, but are we maximizing that opportunity?
I’ve seen it all too often with myself and with friends who don’t know what to say in trying times. Should I check-in? Surely she has enough people texting her. We weren’t that close — I bet he’s fine. These are some of the thoughts we’ve all had at some point. I took a moment to reflect on the struggles we are faced with during social distancing. People who went to school or work each day may no longer have a safe place. Parents have now transitioned into teachers, mothers and fathers of children have little to no quiet time, dining rooms have turned into study rooms, and there are now 24-hour caregivers who have no choice but to be on the clock. People are experiencing depression, anxiety, grief and fear of the unknown. Routine and structure were suddenly disrupted, which can wreak havoc on our mental and psychological well-being.
These are trying times.
These are the moments to check-in.
The opportunity to be present for one another has presented itself in a critical way. We have the power to change someone’s day in an instant with a simple FaceTime, text or phone call. A moment of virtual contact for anyone struggling could be the light needed to feel like everything is going to be OK. Giving someone a sense of routine or normalcy during this time can be much needed and even life-changing. While each day presents a different challenge, knowing someone is supporting you no matter how things turn out is like having a safety blanket. Those parents, caretakers and people struggling with mental health need us as their safety blanket.
We have the opportunity to grow and strengthen all our relationships in ways we might not have before. Technology may not be on our side when our professors are on mute for half of the online lecture, but it is on our side when it comes to being present with our friends and family. We can have a game night with people, not only in different cities but in all different time zones. Plan a Houseparty and laugh with your classmates or co-workers!
We all have mental immune systems, much like our physiological immune systems, wired for grief and recovery. Now is when we can help others strengthen their mental immune systems. Being a safety blanket for someone will ensure we all mentally recover from these unprecedented times together.
However, when we do return to our routines of class or work, we should hold on to the desire of checking on one another. Life will continue to happen to each of us and will challenge our mental immune system. Hopefully, social distancing will teach us how to be a safety blanket for someone, so when our own mental immune systems are weak, we can find a way to recover. We will also hopefully value the importance of being present for one another, even if it’s over the phone or computer. So, reach out to anyone you care about and say something … anything, even if it’s awkward.
~Ali MacDonald, Georgia ’22