The spread of coronavirus has called time on life as we know it, leaving thousands dead and thousands more infected. But it’s also affected the healthy, whose lives have changed too.
With towns and cities in lockdown, many are living a pared-down existence. Forced to self-isolate, there’s little in the way of social life.
In the midst of this quiet chaos, it’s mental health I’m thinking about.
Months before the outbreak, I started my own form of social self-isolation by deleting my Instagram account for mental health reasons. As a college student, I remember using Instagram to share funny stories with friends, but lately, it’s become a competition ground for who’s living the “best life.”
These supposed “goals,” as proposed by promotional posts by paid influencers, left me feeling stressed and irritated. Yet I was logging on at every free moment, mindlessly scrolling through my feed like a zombie.
Since I deleted the app, I’ve been surprised by the number of people who still use it despite the way it makes them feel. I’ve seen friends stood up on nights out, with the deserter appearing on other people’s Instagram stories later that night. Recently, I had to comfort someone who was offered a collaboration with an influencer friend only to be ignored and replaced with someone else. (Unsurprisingly, this was discovered on Instagram too).
That’s why the COVID-19 lockdown, while a bleak and mentally testing period, could be a time of self-reflection for our Instagram-obsessed generation.
Pre-lockdown, some people were so busy documenting their lives they didn’t have time to sit down and face their thoughts. But during the lockdown period, they have to.
Remember when Instagram FOMO was enough for users to drag themselves out of their houses when they really wanted to chill? Now that the social pressure’s gone, they can.
Positive moments can be found in the darkest of times, and this lockdown period can be an opportunity for social self-care. It’s time for people to be honest with themselves and reflect on what they liked from their pre-COVID social lives—and what they didn't.
There’s a motivational post I saw (ironically on Facebook) that sums up what this time should be about more succinctly than I could ever manage. It says “In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”
The world is taking a breath, and we should too. It’s time to figure out what was making us unhappy and change it.
While you’re at home, don’t feel guilty about not doing anything. If you don’t want to copy your favourite influencer and start up a craft hobby then don’t. If all you really want to do is watch TV, do it.
Being homebound 24/7 is going to be a mental marathon, so make it bearable by being kind to yourself. Instead of following Instagram’s unattainable goals, create ones that will make you happy. After all, the post-COVID-19 world won’t be the same as the one we left behind, so why should you be?