This is a strange time we’re living in. With coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases all over the globe, I find that every thought I have is directly followed by one related to COVID-19. Even social media, which I thought would be a distraction from all the chaos in the world, is often filled with uninformed opinions about how to handle coronavirus.
While applications like Instagram and Twitter can be good for sharing resources and ways to stay safe, I feel that they've also become a platform for many to make many generalizations about the virus, which has various and distinct impacts on every family, community and socioeconomic class.
One of the more tasteless opinions I’ve seen is that this period was given to us as a way to catch up on our lives and to relax. While this may be a way to encourage positive thinking in a crazy time, I’m starting to get tired of “forcing positivity” being trendy. I’ve seen handfuls of influencers talk about how they’re even grateful for a break from their busy schedules. Are their intentions pure? Perhaps. But it’s important to see how this mentality has catastrophic repercussions.
For one, it ignores huge groups of healthcare workers, grocery store employees and manual laborers and more putting their lives on the line, many without being provided proper protection like masks and gloves, to save those of us who can stay home. It feels so wrong to even imagine that this time could be relaxing or peaceful for them when many may even be quarantined away from their family as an extra precaution.
On the flip side, countless people have lost their jobs and are now facing problems like housing and food insecurity. Everyday duties like paying rent, buying groceries and making a living wage have been turned on their heads. Homeless shelters are even closing because they aren’t deemed safe enough and can’t ethically allow so many people together in an enclosed space.
This is also a huge game-changer for people stuck inside unsafe homes or students now expected to keep up with schoolwork while in an unstable environment. Also, as a result of isolation and uncertainty, those with mental health illnesses may be experiencing especially hard times.
While many people have said social distancing is a great way to work on personal growth and healing, social distancing is also a source of loneliness. Those who are feeling down and turn to social media for some interaction are met with an abundance of posts telling them they should be using this time for personal growth.
Social distancing, staying home, working on yourself and being happy are all privileges many don’t have. So why has it become commonplace to shame those who aren’t being their best selves?
I feel it’s because people are choosing to forget about the least fortunate in this situation. It’s become so easy to forget about the least fortunate — hardly any focus is put on the least fortunate when it comes to actual policies and safety procedures taking place today. It’s easy to forget about those who are truly suffering right now because it is so difficult to constantly think about how the coronavirus disproportionately affects lower socioeconomic class and blue-collar workers. Also, the effects of coronavirus will last a lot longer on those who are currently disadvantaged.
This isn’t to say I’m against being happy at a time like this: I don’t think it’s wrong to focus on relaxing as a personal goal. If a person has the ability to slow down their life amid all that is changing in our world today, it’s reasonable for them to seize that opportunity!
But this shouldn’t be an excuse for not caring about others who are much worse off. Just because one person can do it, doesn’t mean it should be socially acceptable for others to be held to this expectation.
The issue of positivity during a pandemic is convoluted, complicated and, most importantly, holds a unique meaning for every individual. Is there any way to bridge this gap? Maybe not. But something I’ve been doing to keep my spirits up is thinking of one thing I’m grateful for every day. No pressure to be happy, productive, creative or fearless in the face of our changing world. But it does allow me just one moment to breathe, which is what I hope for everyone at this time.