Melody Tuan
December 1, 2020

Checking In and Being Checked Up On: Navigating Social Isolation, Together

We’re in a global pandemic and, as a result, our methods of communication are limited. How can girls combat the feelings of loneliness that come with social isolation? In this piece, MEDIAGIRLS Editorial Intern Melody Tuan explores how girls can overcome feelings of disconnectedness, together.

The way we interact has changed due to our shift to a more virtual world. And, now, more than ever, we have no idea what someone is experiencing behind their online presence and social media posts. Because the pandemic presents such a unique set of social challenges, it’s especially important to check up on your friends and loved ones. However, the distance can make it hard to reach out. So, how do we care for our friends within the confines of quarantine? 

Checking In

The longing for physical interaction is shared by many under the pandemic. And, while we may not be able to physically check in with our loved ones, it’s still important to reach out. Care comes in many different forms and demonstrating care doesn’t have to be extravagant. Sometimes a simple text offering support or love can pave the way to a meaningful discussion. Sometimes getting a card in the mail or an unscheduled FaceTime is all that a person needs to brighten their week. 

Livic (19), a university student taking classes remotely in New Jersey, offers their thoughts on what daily interactions are like through social media: 

“Socially, I have been able to connect with friends more online, and honestly even on a deeper level than before since we’re more open to sharing our worries now that we can’t meet in person. But, I do miss the small everyday interactions that felt concrete….” 

It’s understandable to miss the everyday things like catching up on the events of the day over lunch or hugging your friends goodbye! Give yourself space to feel those feelings. There’s no shame in missing what we once took for granted. But, don’t let missing those things stop you from continuing to strengthen your friendships! Ask your friends deep questions like those found in The New York Times article 36 Questions That Lead to Love. Make trivia games about yourselves! Make playlists for each other. Make it a goal to get to know your friends–and yourself–even better.

Livic continues, “Even video calls really aren’t enough for me to tell if my friends are doing alright or not. Whereas before, I was so used to seeing people and reading body language, I feel like I could easily tell when someone was down. My friends would do the same for me, too; sometimes without words I could just walk in and people knew, and it was easy to comfort and console and reach out. Now, when I want to send a text to someone I wonder if it’s even worth it, like, ‘Do I want to be another text they read that will be overwhelming?’” 

Sometimes, we overthink our interactions when we’re in isolation. It’s a tricky but natural function of the brain. Through this challenging phase in our lives, we have to pick up on new modes of communication and demonstrating care. While it may be hard to rely on intuition while checking up on friends virtually, we can learn to read between the lines or, if you’re unsure, ask questions directly. Most of the time, your friends will be willing to open up if you offer your support. Learning to understand and care for people in different ways will only bring us closer.

Recently, I’ve reached out to friends living in different countries. Communication can be hard across different time zones and schedules, but one work around is voice messaging. If a voice or video call is too difficult to schedule, then voice messages are a great substitute. You can hear the other person’s voice and really verbalize your responses and feelings which can sometimes feel more impactful than reading or typing a body of text. You also get the benefit being able to take your time to pause, process, and respond!

There are many ways to check in, so don’t be afraid to take initiative and reach out and don’t be hurt if the response isn’t what you expect. We’re all just trying to figure this out.

Being Checked Up On

More importantly, it’s vital to monitor your own mental health, too! Being checked up on can feel daunting since culturally, we have a tendency to simply say, “I’m okay” or “I’m fine” all the time. What do we do when we’re not actually “okay?” 

Honestly is almost always the best policy. Sometimes we feel like we’re burdening others if we open up to them about our problems, but that’s not true! Most of the time the vulnerability you demonstrate can inspire others too. It can be hard to express your feelings, but it may help to understand that you are not alone and that others are willing to listen to what you have to say, even if you can’t say it as well as you would like. It can be really worthwhile to listen to the advice others have to offer, or it can be comforting to just know that someone’s listening. 

If you feel like you need support, don’t hesitate to reach out. Distance can often lead to overthinking, a common fear being: “Why is nobody checking in with me? Does that mean nobody cares about me?” Not at all! If you’re feeling lonely, reach out! If you’re feeling sad, say something. Be honest with yourself and your friends about your feelings just as you would be with them in person. 

Alternatively, if you’re feeling burnt out, use this time to be alone. The pandemic has brought on a lot of uncertainties. On top of everything, you could also be burnt out from school, work, isolation, or just being inside and online all the time. You don’t have to respond to every text or every video call. Sometimes you need to just be! Enjoy the time you have with yourself. It’s okay if you need space. While social media can be a tool to connect with others, it can also be overwhelming. Take breaks. 

Checking In

It can also be beneficial to use this time to figure out how you like to be cared for. Do you like being checked up on often, or do you prefer your space? Do you like when people give you advice, or do you like it better when people just listen? These distinctions are important to know and use in self-development and relationship-building, even outside of a virtual setting. 

The lonely reality of COVID-19 is harsh, and it’s a challenge we all have to face. Our ways of living have changed, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Understanding and patience are essential to overcoming the hardships that the pandemic has brought. Everyone copes differently, so there’s no right or wrong way to feel. Surround yourself with positivity on and off of social media. Together, we’ll get through this.  

To watch MEDIAGIRLS’ Parent/ Educator Talks on how to support girls during COVID-19, click on the links below:

Making Healthy Social-Media Choices during the Pandemic: Part 1

Navigating the “New Normal” of COVID-19 with Your Girls: Part 2

Melody Tuan is an undergraduate student at Simmons University majoring in English writing and minoring in Asian studies and Art. She’s an international student from Taiwan who loves rummaging night markets and devouring street food. Deeply inspired by cultural studies and creative expression, she writes with curiosity about identity and media influence.

 

 

 

Featured Image by @freestocks on Unsplash.