It’s mind-boggling that even in the middle of a global pandemic, people have expressed reluctance — some embarrassingly so — to curb certain aspects of their all-important social lives, even if it means potentially saving those most at risk, i.e., the elderly and people who are immunocompromised.
To date, COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has led to the deaths of more than 6,500 people worldwide — and nations overwhelmed by the number of people who’ve fallen ill, including Italy and Spain, should put American citizens on high alert that a similar spread is very likely to happen in the US in the coming weeks. And with American exceptionalism at an all-time high, some might say we’re screwed.
But being screwed, in this particular instance, is a choice. There are ways to avoid making matters worse. So say you’re a young, vibrant, social person who has plans. Plans for brunch, plans for drinks, plans for whatever. You feel healthy and energized, so why should you practice “social distancing”? You feel fine! Well, mainly because you could be a carrier of COVID-19 and not experience any symptoms. Asymptomatic carriers can pass the virus to someone who is at risk for developing severe complications from the virus. Self-isolation is an amazing preemptive and communal strategy to practice now.
I watched several conversations take place on my Twitter feed throughout the last week, with many colleagues and friends doing their best to practice social distancing, which, as the Washington Post pointed out, is one of the most effective ways to slow the spread of the virus. Naturally, lots of jokes were made about people having cabin fever (and understandably so, we are social animals!), but I also noticed some self-proclaimed introverts, myself included, joking about how they’re quite fine with our new reality. Now, to be clear, this isn’t an opportunity for people who have natural inclination toward introversion to be smug (OK, maybe just a little bit), and this definitely isn’t directed toward people who cannot financially afford to self-isolate or practice extreme social distancing. But that said, as a lifelong introvert, I want to stress that, for people who have the means to do so, social distancing isn’t so bad, and here are a few — hopefully compelling — reasons why.
First of all, how freeing is it to not have to deal with FOMO?! There’s no fear of missing out on anything because, quite literally, nothing is happening right now. In New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, for instance, bars, restaurants, gyms, and theaters are closing as a way to mitigate the spread of the virus, a measure taken right after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged people to reconsider gatherings larger than 50 people for the next eight weeks. With this sort of government-sanctioned approach to quelling the spread of COVID-19, Americans can take advantage of things like — gasp! — leisure and not being super productive at all times, as is our typical default setting.
As an expert social distancer, I’ve enjoyed going for brief walks around my neighborhood. This past weekend because the weather was nice, I took a stroll to the park, sat on a bench, and read a few chapters of Ling Ma’s dystopian novel Severance (one of our best books of the decade) about a woman trying to survive after a virus turns people into zombies of their former selves.
Afterward, I headed home and cooked for myself. I enjoyed a glass of red wine and listened to a few of my favorite podcasts — Las Culturistas, Keep It! and Strong Black Legends, if you need suggestions — while making chili. I streamed movies that I somehow missed during their original theatrical run, like Frozen II, which was an absolute, unexpected delight. As a matter of fact, please listen to Jonathan Groff’s “Lost in the Woods,” because it is A BANGER (sorry, Idina). I also recommend going to the roof of the building you live in, if you have a roof you can access, for a bit of self-reflection in the evening, as well as taking long, hot showers while singing some of Céline Dion’s toughest ballads. Also — and I can’t stress this enough — feel free to masturbate as often as you’d like! If you’re someone who enjoys premium content, you can support some of your favorite sex workers by subscribing to their OnlyFans or JustFor.Fans accounts, especially since some have taken a hit financially since the coronavirus pandemic hit the states. (And if you’re coupled, why not use this time to experiment in the bedroom?) But seriously, when’s the last time you spent time with yourself and only did the things you desired to do? When’s the last time you journaled your thoughts and feelings?
Sure, the conditions in which we currently live aren’t ideal, but spending time with your own company can be pretty rewarding.
Now I don’t want to make it seem like no social interaction with other humans is necessary — that’s definitely not the case. Though people who have no qualms with being in their own company for hours on end may make social distancing look easy, we still crave human connection and interaction. Loneliness could definitely spike in the next few months, but in the meantime, you can reach out to friends via Skype, FaceTime, or whatever video-calling app you use. You can also go on short walks with people who are close by, as this USA Today article points out: “Meet a neighbor or two or three on the street for a conversation. Send the kids outside for a no-contact game of soccer or a hike in the park or woods with friends.”
Having to adjust your life so abruptly can be jarring. With the mandatory closing of gyms, I was nervous about how this would impact my daily workouts, but this, too, is something that can be done at home (shoutout to Jane Fonda’s original workout tape, a personal fave). I canceled plans to meet a potential new friend at a bar this past Friday because it ultimately felt like a selfish endeavor. This pandemic will likely require us to continually make adjustments to our daily lives, both large and small, but if your main concern is simply figuring out how to best spend your time alone — unlike people who have to worry about their income for the next few months or childcare, due to schools being shuttered — you’ll be fine. You may be bored at times, which is completely OK, but at least you’re not potentially spreading the virus to someone way more vulnerable. When’s the last time you got to do absolutely nothing and it was seen as an extremely helpful gesture? (Don’t lie. I doubt it happens that much!)
Finally, if you’re really struggling to come up with creative solutions for indoor activities on your own, reach out to an introverted friend. We’ve been unwittingly preparing for a moment like this for quite some time. ●