How quarantine might help our social lives

 The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has left many wondering what the new normal will be once it’s over. GRAPHIC BY HALEY KEIZUR/FOGHORN

Zoe Binder is a freshman English major.

Needless to say, most of us have been struggling to adjust since we shifted to a life of social distancing over a month ago. The phrases “time is an illusion” and “this is never going to end” must have been uttered a record-breaking number of times by now. Students across the globe have been asked to return home from their universities, forcing many to leave behind their closest friends and switch to an online class system. So, now that most of us have settled in and are safe at home, what’s next?

Technology has allowed students and faculty at USF to engage with each other, and we can video chat with our friends and family anytime. But when quarantine first began, I couldn’t stop wondering about how quickly we would adapt to this new way of communicating, and whether it will affect our lives when things “return to normal.” At first, I really feared that our collective social competency would suffer during this period of isolation, but in the last couple of weeks, I have noticed a shift in the opposite direction. 

When I arrived home, I expected to be infinitely bored for all of quarantine, assuming that I would get sick of my family and seclude myself most of the time. Instead, I’ve found that when people are bored, they at least want to be bored together. I have seen a change in my own family from the time that I arrived home a month ago to today, particularly in how much time we spend on our screens. We went from checking our phones an unhealthy amount every day to having days where none of us have paid attention to our phones at all because interacting with each other has become much more interesting. Lifting our faces out of our screens, even for this month, has allowed us to learn more about each other, get along better, and actually have fun at home. (Of course, inevitable boredom does call for daily social media updates, but the platforms now seem so repetitive that that urge to log on has waned.)

During group video calls with my friends, our main topic of conversation always morphs from the absurdity of this era of our lives to our plans to see each other when quarantine ends. I have never romanticized the future more than I do now, and my friends get excited over the phone when they talk about returning to their communities and social groups. We daydream about the return of our favorite restaurants, our favorite sports teams, and our favorite hang-out spots. As a product of boredom from sitting inside all day, we have all started craving the freedom and fun that the future will bring. Students learning remotely at USF and other universities are especially excited about the day we return to campus, and we talk about the commotion of the fall as though it were candy. 

Leaving San Francisco and adapting to online classes was not part of anyone’s plan this semester. Though we might be struggling with the format and organization of our classes right now, I think we will all be more appreciative of what we have when we enter campus classrooms next semester. The mental image of sitting in a Lone Mountain classroom with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, talking with friends and peers, and listening to a professor lecture without glitches and technical interruptions fills me with the motivation I need to get through this period of quarantine.

The time I have spent at home for the past month has allowed me to understand how important little social interactions are in my daily life, and how much I take them for granted. The experience of sitting in a classroom with a professor and your peers or going out with your friends has proven to be so radically different from the experience of seeing those same people through a screen. I have become grateful for every chance I have to socialize. Seeing the people I love in-person for the first time in months will be amazing, but I have learned not to underestimate the power of getting to know new people and having spontaneous interactions the way we do on campus. 

Returning to school in the fall and experiencing the hustle and bustle of a new semester might feel overwhelming to us. But, I believe it will be more unifying than ever, as we will all show much more gratitude toward each other by recognizing how lucky we are to be surrounded by life every day.

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