I can’t wait for the return of cinemas and indoor socialising – another step on the road to normality

Lockdown has showed us what it feels like to be removed from our hive – and now it’s time for us to find our way back

Amy Nickell@AmyNicks_
Sunday 16 May 2021 13:54

Matt Hancock says Covid strategy on track, but Indian variant has given disease ‘more legs’

Chuck out the hot water bottles, switch off the infrared heater and call up your best mate because the day has come to head back indoors.

Today, yet more normality is invited to flow back through the veins of our society in the form of Cineworld, a non-weather-dependent pint at Wetherspoons, and a cup of tea at your nan’s.

The India variant shows that we still have to act sensibly, and follow the rules – but it’s time to take back a bit more of what was lost.

But, as we begin to gather ourselves together after the weirdest 18 months most of are likely to live through, will it be possible to pick up where we left off? Was where we started really any good for us either?

In March 2020, Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, sending the country into individual prisons until further notice. Following these 14 months of restrictions, rule changes and lockdowns, the number of people who report feeling symptoms of depression has doubled. That’s symptoms of depression, not to be confused with clinical depression.

Depression symptoms result from a complicated web of factors, but a large slice of the pie is human connection. So as the masks went on and the perspex screens went up, the lockdowns slowly eroded our ability to meaningfully interact. The interdependence that supports any chance of good mental health, especially for people living alone, was eroded.

While we protected physical health, we seriously neglected the psychological. Turns out, treating each other like anonymous potential vectors of disease wasn't great for national self-esteem.

The trouble was that most of us turned up to run this marathon in terrible shape. Millennials were already the loneliest living generation. The first where the majority, rather than the few, say they have precisely no one to turn to when they are struggling. This is partly due to the time we spend online, a place we have got to know even better over the past year.

A meaningful connection is with the person you call when you are truly upset, not the person who leaves the fire emoji on every Instagram upload you share. Already at the tipping point, it’s no wonder we’ve ended up needing to be mentally airlifted out of this pandemic.

What the pandemic has done is given us a glimpse of what life without the human connection we were on the road to voluntarily making digital looks like. Having done the research and worn the loungewear, it's now clear how vital a role we play in each other’s wellbeing.

Credit to us, we tried our best to replace humans with screens, teachers with screens and doctors – one woman I know even had a gynaecologist appointment via Zoom. And still, in these 14 months, I have never and will never experience a satisfying Zoom call.

I’ve missed eavesdropping on cinema-goers’ film reviews in the glare of the credits, or hearing the chatter inside a pub. It’s these small interactions that remind us we are part of a whole.

So now, look up from our phones, give the technology a real break and move toward what makes humans – which is each other. Real life, in the flesh, before the beauty filtering each other – that’s what I believe we need.

Our human superpower is cooperation, it’s how we've survived so far, and we work best in a tribe. Lockdown has showed us what it feels like to be removed from our hive – and now it’s time for us to find our way back, one overpriced hot dog at a time.

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