Social You, Quarantine Causing Pain

Since the start Covid-19 pandemic we have had many mixed emotions about being quarantined.  For some, it has been a pleasant paid vacation to sit home and relax.  But for others it has been unbearable isolation and pain.   I often see this kind of difference when I work with couples. One person wants to go out every weekend and visit friends, while the other just wants to be home and do laundry, relax, watch football.  When I explain this discrepancy to couples, I use the model of a spectrum.  

On one end of the spectrum we have the most social you could be..never home, even neglecting chores, paying bills, or family.  On the other end we see the agoraphobic, who is afraid of being around others and cannot even go to the grocery store.   Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.   And if we think of social connection as “social calories” then we start to see how many each of us need every day or every week.  Working with the couple, I could determine the wife needs to stay home and reset herself on the weekends, while the husband needs to go out, have friends over for cookouts, be on 2 golf leagues, and coach the kids’ basketball team.  Once the couple realizes the need of the other person, we can start to balance the spare time to meet the other person’s need to either recharge alone or get connection and satiate their social cravings.

If you read my blog about food, you may recall my bias against “calories”.  I wrote about how we cannot measure our food intake based on calories, because 1500 calories in a Big Mac does not affect your body in the same way as an organic roast with organic potatoes and carrots would.  I have one here as well.   What we think fills our social needs, such as social media, doesn’t actually count and fill our need for connection.  If you haven’t seen the Netflix show, ”The Social Dilemma”, it’s worth watching and gets into the ethical use of social media and how it can negatively affect our self-esteem by using our need for connection. 

I believe we should get on Facebook, Snapchat, email to reach our loved ones and colleagues in order to set up the next meeting, birthday party, or movie night.  However, many people use social media as their only connection.  They are spending hours on it, but never getting enough “social calories” because social media is not real connection.   We were already starving for real connection on the spectrum, and then Covid-19 hit.  The fear of infection and the quarantine has forced us to move 25% or more towards isolation/agoraphobia.  If we were already in that zone, it felt familiar and doable.  If we were more social and really need to be around others, it felt like you were living on bread and water…constantly craving…constantly hungry for connection.  Quarantine caused us to lean more on social media.  We are hard wired as humans to have love and connection, and when we don’t we experience it, the deepest types of pain and depression are created.  If you or anyone you know is really struggling, please consider seeking counseling, talk to your doctor, and find someone in your life that you could talk to about it. Where are you on the social spectrum? How has quarantine affected you socially?

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