The Skeletons COVID-19 Left Behind: The Pandemic and its Effects on Social Relationships
By now, people hear the date March 13, and immediately recall the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic changed the way we live our lives in many different ways. Schools went online, businesses shut down, and masks covered our once happy smiles. What scares most people about the pandemic was the virus itself. What is much scarier is the aftermath of the pandemic. Quarantine damaged our social relationships and the distance between us has yet to close back to where it used to be. More than anything, our phones have become our social crutch, being the only outlet we had to communicate with members outside of our households. While many parts of our lives have returned back to normal, it seems that our social media usage is as strong as ever. Even with schools reopening and businesses returning to regular hours, the parasocial relationships that people have developed with their phone remains. What scares me the most about the pandemic was never the virus, but society’s inability to heal from the damage it left on our way of living.
I remember quarantine like it was yesterday. Waking up in the morning just to lay around in bed all day. I barely changed out of my pjs or fixed my hair. Why would I get ready with nowhere to go? I hadn’t seen my friends in weeks and a reunion was nowhere in sight. My once busy schedule was now completely and utterly empty. I was running out of shows to watch, activities to do around the house, and even my homework load was running thin. The only piece of excitement in my life was my phone. Once I entered my passcode, it felt like a world of opportunity was at my fingertips. Social media was the only thing keeping me connected with my friends. The TikTok videos of random people I did not personally know were filling the void that social interaction left in my life. I would check my screen time as I was going to bed and bat my eyes, emotionless. 12 hours of my time were drained every day and I can still never get those hours back. I grew a phone addiction like never before and I still have yet to recover from it.
A parasocial relationship is defined as a relationship that an individual forms with an Internet or media personality. It was normal to see these types of relationships between celebrities and their fan bases before the pandemic, but every relationship became parasocial once we were all locked inside our homes. The rise of TikTok influencers hit like never before as well. It is now entirely possible to become a multimillionaire solely based on your Internet presence. Society relies on social media like never before. While this may have begun before the pandemic, the disconnect we felt from one another during quarantine perpetuated these relationships. I struggle to avoid checking my phone every couple minutes. I feel glued to social media because I got so used to staying in contact with friends through these platforms. It sometimes can feel like a relationship that lacks social media connections is seen to have no substance anymore. The value of our relationships are defined through Instagram posts and Snapchat streaks more so than ever.
The COVID-19 pandemic took a lot away from us. It changed our livelihood and thousands of individuals were stolen from us too soon. In the process of recovering from the pandemic, we may have lost a part of ourselves as well. Every one of us had someone, an experience, or an opportunity stolen from us. Healing is almost never a linear process and our damaged social relationships reflect that we still have a long road to recovery. It terrifies me that our world has changed so drastically and so rapidly. Everything, from the way we receive news to the way we watch TV and movies has changed. Our smartphones have become our lives. I do not believe that smartphones and social media will be the downfall of society but our disconnect with reality could be. What scares me is that social media has become one of the most crucial parts of our lives. It scares me that Halloween has seemingly become a year-round holiday for some people. Our social media personas have become the costumes that mask our real-life identities. Ghosts and witches have nothing on the effects of the pandemic on our society.