Nutshell observations during early lockdowns
This is a small summary of personal observations I gathered during the first months of isolation in early 2020, but never came around to put into an article of sorts. It’s needles to say that plenty of new data on society‘s behavior was collected and published during the ongoing pandemic, but this is not intended to address the obvious we already know. Said examples would include the increased domestic violence rates, spiked racism, enhanced online shopping and video streaming and the exploding market on home renovation and hair dye.
Also, a sudden appreciation of professions, that should have been acknowledged long before and not only in context of a pandemic, the irresponsible mass adoption from animal shelters, just to return the pets after the homeoffice schedules were lifted and the skyrocketting of isolation anxiety, as well as the stock in webcam services. I figured these areas and the connections between them do not require me going into further detail, as this was already covered in great lengths elsewhere. Below you find my notes in a nutshell in no particular order.
When the lockdowns first started, they seemed to mean a great deal of relief for some people. The notion to be instructed, knowing exactly what to do, what not to do and having outlines when, proposed a predictable structure and secure framework in times of uncertainty, which in turn provided a sense of much needed hold. Hence, it became valuable enough for some people to be worth of their protection, expressed by dutiful collaboration and feeling committed to remind others of the „new rules“ as well.*
Obedience made sense to them and promised safety. Others even found a soothing pleasure in being completely directed by an external source, not having to worry about figuring the situation out alone. I witnessed people feeling re-energized throughout the lockdowns, as the rescheduling into homeoffice or short-time work offered a highly neglected downtime and reduction of an otherwise suffocating mental load for them. (I myself had faced a forced timeout, which frankly I should have given myself a long time ago.
Without the alternated circumstances, I would have continued to be the insufferable, burning out workaholic I usually am.) Combining these points should explain why some took a positive stance towards new orders, advocated conscientiousness and stayed as peaceful as possible to maintain the common wellbeing, even if that meant to inconvenient themselves individually or give up on certain amenities.
Simultaneously, some people became overwhelmed by all the unexpected changes and their initial concern grew into a feeling of being cornered. A mixture of panic, suddenly being confronted with a pandemic of global scale, and resentment, distressingly having the freedom they enjoyed their entire lifes being increasingly taken away from them, formed an ideal ground to breed agitation.
Judging the perception, that society was taking itself hostage, as a bigger threat to their wellbeing than the cause of it itself, made the fear of the virus secondary. Furthermore, it triggered some people’s instilled survival response to intimidation – intimidate back. Rationalize the information, minimize its impact to reality and fight back. In search for an outlet for their anger, fear and disappointment, many found it by directing these emotions against graspable areas, like politics, sciences or the government. By the new found ability to blame a certain instance (instead of disorientedly being at the mercy of an unpredictable, abstract ocean of causalities and dynamics, that all played a role in the pandemic) a sense of gaining control back was achieved.
Others were not as upset, but rather deprived and fatigued, slowly feeling crushed under the immense mental burden of their new situations. Combined with tension towards the unknown and overall mistrust towards what is known, some developed a strongly opposing nature to the adaptions constantly demanded of them. Therefore, they displayed a revoltive attitude when confronted with further pressure or limitations, as well as a critical, refusing or argumentative tendency when asked to cooperate or be considerate.
People sometimes displayed a contrasting shift in focus, with a manifestation directing either inwards or outwards. For some, the lockdowns enhanced introspection and encouraged them to practice mindfulness and gratitude for things that had been taken for granted. In best case scenario, they started to rethink their prior lifestyle and habits, eventually comparing them to better alternatives for the future, which they reflected upon due to lockdown. For others, it hightened the attention given to external frustrations, turning their focus upon things or situations outside themselves to pick apart and find fault in. What may present itself as relentless complaining, yet offered a reliable stress relief and destraction from internal unpleasantries, such as discontent or fear. In worst case scenario, the isolation and restrictions amplified underlying tendencies to entitlement, selfishness or aggression towards themselves and others.
Many households of couples, friends or roommates seemed to experience a fast forwarding effect on their shared living situations in regards of how compatible they were. Spending very hightened amounts of time together locally, by self-isolation or lockdown restrictions, held the ability to point out harmonic traits and issues within a way shorter timeframe, than it would have stretching out over the usual spans of people meeting or having mutual distance while on work. Being bound to their homes almost 24/7 also accentuated individual boundaries to themselves and the other person, making some couples feel confident after their „lockdown trial“ prevailed, and many breaking up, realizing they were not with the right person and basically got saved the time they would have actually spend to find out the same later on.
Before any coherent instructions where published, some people went to outstanding artistic lengths in an attempt to protect themselves. Wether it was intentionally or by accident, fine craftmanship combined with resourcefulness and a sense of survivalinstinct created all sorts of visually entertaining armors during the first lockdowns.
public information systems
Not a „new“ problem in my book, but a problem whatsover, seemed to be the access and the dissemination of pandemic related information. I guess the combination of a worldwide, potentially lethal outbreak, which pushes people’s need for information off the charts, and the extremely short-lived frequency in which new insights were updated almost every other hour, contributed to a tense environment of panic and attachment towards news-outlets.
The current way in which information is curated, distributed and presented has been highlighting an alarming, yet progressing condition. Even if the indespansible necessity to cross check multiple sources is acknowledged, one still risks to not be properly informed in the end. With especially older generations unaware of the required research to form a remotely reliable picture nowadays, their already peaking uneasyness got worsened. The uprising whirlwinds of questioning, reassurance, lies and halftruths also paved an easy trail to conspiracy theories and fake news, leaving people furthermore in a state of doubt or agitation.
Channels prolongued and repetitive coverage of one and the same topic caused a noticeable and stubbornly persisting oversaturation, within which I had to assert boundaries myself too. Some people sent me excessive waves of material and news on the virus daily, that were either never new to me or coming from sources I knew to be unreliable. While I intially wondered why they’d think I am not taking care and informing myself, I recognized soon enough that the behavior occured in a coping fashion from own fears.
And that spreading every new bit of information they could get their hands on, would sort of calm their nerves, they didn’t know how to deal with otherwise. Nevertheless, it slowly put a strain on my mental health and in some instances I had to remind over and over to stop bombarding me with spam. If they still wouldn’t stop, I had to excuse myself from the conversation, as my boundaries kept being disrespected.
I take pride in always being there for my bunch no matter what’s up, taking all the time it needs to comfort them compassionately and constructively, but I am not letting myself be coerned into a depersonified dump to a 24/7 livestreamed scaremonger echo, which is neither of those.
A phenomenon I only want to mention briefly, as I will definitely look more thouroughly into it in the future. As described in the main article, it defines a baffling and disturbing shift in peoples judgement towards something dangerous or unjust, that turns from outrage to acceptance or even longing with no additional, changeworthy information given, after merely a minor timeframe passing.
I coined the abbreviated „Year out“ term in regards to the german expression for „Well/Good“ and multiple „Yout“ubers, whose severely incriminating actions were exposed throughout 2020. While first urged to take accountability by their fans, they continued their careers only months later as if nothing had happend, enabled by said followers conveniently and collectively „forgetting“ about the crushing amounts of victims, proofs and display of horrible character.
Solely in intention to bring back their favorite influencers to the same screen they wanted them gone from, it was implied that their impatience about the lack of content held a higher priority and value, than the proper dealing with affected victims and appropriate consequences for the culprit. This self-serving „social alzheimers“ showcased a dangerous and unreasonable turn from responsibility and logic to selective conscience and agenda fueled denial of evidences, that were still just as much fact as they were before the effect occured.
Applying this principle to the pandemic situation, people who were conscientiously handling and understanding the rules and insights around the pandemic, suddenly „did not believe“ in the same proven evidence they advocated for months anymore, denied their knowledge of precautions or declared baselessly changed „opinions“ on the virus, its origin or spreading as „factuality“.
All in order to justify trashing an entire system that was designed to protect and preserve, to instead carelessly do whatever they wanted, no matter how much that jeopardized and detrimented everyone involved. Nothing, besides a year passing, had contributed to prompt a level of irrationality, in which impatience or lack of self-regulation served enough reason to again and again risk their own and the lifes of others. In that state, the probability of siding with horrendous conspiracies or engaging in personal convictions completely missing the point, was higher, than to be giving scientific research and common sense any further chance or consideration.
From the pandemic being „about the government out to get them and trying to ruin their lifes“, over „the chinese trying to mind control the world over nano bots in vaccines that activate through 5G“ to „Bill Gates decreasing the numbers for overpopulation so later everyone gets a seat in Elon Musk‘s spaceships“, anything was fair game to just not having to act responsibly, even coming from people you would have never expected it from.
sharing a society with?
People who would pick a full blown fight about something as trivial as toilet paper with long lines being hold up behind them. People who would hoard, steal or in worst case raid, not due to hardship, but for their own benefit and to the dismay of others. People who are incapable of any self control over the pettiest remarks towards others they knew to be in utter misery already. People who took advantage of others fear or profited off of someone in despair.
People who were fine risking dozens of lifes for insisting on their will to get a 2 bucks ice cream at a café. People who would go out of their way and safety to support others and pick up the extra, no matter how affected they were themselves. People who tried to think of something to contribute in a time of scarcity. People who took responsibility for their wellbeing and expanded that decision to sooth and encourage others. People that generously shared what was already fractioned. People who finally found back to themselves during an amazing process of growth in an environment of restriction.
And, being complex creatures scattered over an incredibly vast spectrum of deeply rooted emotions and motives, many people were all of the above, trying everything to get by and aid the people they care about, be that just themselves, family and friends, or even strangers.
One thing is for sure: We all faced scary and angering challenges during the pandemic, experienced the loss of freedom, our home, our jobs or in worst case a person dear to us. At one point or the other, almost everyone I know lost hope, gained weight and felt left behind or missing out. When living becomes functioning becomes surviving, don’t hesitate to reach out to the ressources available: International Helplines
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