Some of my friends are taking self-isolation harder than others. Others don’t seem to be taking it hard at all. And then there are others who seem to be taking it well, but really are just carrying the load of being ‘the strong friend’.
Self Isolation and ‘Real Friends’
In early April, actress Tia Mowry came under fire after tweeting about what it means to have ‘real’ friends in the midst of the pandemic. Mowry was quick to delete the tweet after the massive backlash, but it did bring to light a mentality that too many of us have during this time.
The mindset, to be frank, is self-absorbed. Of course, we all want to feel loved and we want to feel that our friends and family care about us. However, to suggest that a friend who isn’t constantly checking-in on you isn’t a “real” friend is short-sighted. This mindset suggests that the pandemic is only affecting you and fails to acknowledge that it is affecting everyone else, including your “real” friends.
The last thing I want to do is measure the strength of my friendships based on how often a friend is checking in on me as if they don’t have other things that could be occupying their time during a global pandemic.
I will say this: during the time of this pandemic, I have been making it a point to check in on people more. I’ve been reaching out to people who I either already saw on a weekly basis, but also people who I haven’t really spoken to in years. I feel the pull to do this but, even so, I’m not doing this expecting everyone else to do the same for me. We do have to bear in mind the context:
I’m in a more privileged position than most in this whole situation. For one, I still have my job. And this job allows me to work from home. Occasionally, I do have to take care of some work outside of my normal hours but for the most part, my time is my time. I don’t have kids nor do I have a pet that I need to worry about. The only time I really need to go out is when I need groceries, or when I’m feeling desperate for sunlight.
In fact, I guess I can be described as that person who has been “overly productive” during the pandemic. But I understand that my level of activity (be it working out, honing a skill, or finding a new hobby) and my attentiveness to checking in on people is largely due to the lack of responsibilities that I have in comparison to others. Some of my friends have kids that they’re trying to home teach while also doing their own jobs. Other friends have lost their jobs and are trying to make ends meet. Other friends have ‘front-line’ jobs in medicine or in the service industry. And then other friends are so busy pretending to be strong for people that they can hardly do anything for their own mental peace.
Who ‘Deserves’ a Check-in?
The short answer is everyone. Old friends, new friends, immediate family, distant family, people who are working positions that increase their exposure, people with kids, people with pets, people with emotional/mental disorders, etc.
I don’t believe anyone is necessarily above the other when it comes to who ‘deserves’ a check-in or who needs it more.
People like to joke around, telling us to ‘check on your extroverted friends’. While it’s true that extroverts are known for gaining energy through social interaction, it doesn’t change the fact that social interaction is a need for everyone. Introverts need it too, but to a lesser extent as excessive social interaction can be quite exhausting. With that being said, it’s not all roses, Netflix binges, and video games for us either. Introverts may not be heavily distraught by the social distancing regulations, but we’re still not liking the fact that this social distancing isn’t taking place on our own terms.
The same goes for people living with family vs. living alone. Something as small as eye contact or being in the presence of another human isn’t accessible to the lone dweller on a daily basis. Yes, living with family during this time can likely become suffocating, but living alone isn’t necessarily a walk in the park either.
As I said before, I don’t take offense to whether or not a friend chooses to shoot me a message or give me a random call. The pandemic isn’t just about me, and it’s isn’t just about them. It’s something that we are all collectively going through.
Even so, I hope that we all can take that very quick moment to practice a more outward mindset. Maybe that’s reconnecting with that old friend, or sending your bestie a funny meme, or calling a grandparent. I’ve learned that one of the best ways to get out of a funk is to take the focus off of yourself and put it on someone else. Because when we help someone else in need, we allow ourselves to feel better in the process.