The whole world has recently found itself in a new, unknown reality. The COVID-10 pandemic changes the rules of social functioning, affecting our professional and private life. Even if we are not at the center of this revolution ourselves, we still feel its effects - even indirectly, through our surroundings. All this confusion related to social isolation is a very interesting example of how society reacts in a situation when we are all forced to live lonely lives, regardless of preferences. It seems that the world has bowed slightly towards us and has the opportunity to taste life in which the center of attention is directed inward, not outward.
Omnipresent isolation has forced citizens to spend more time at home, reduce people-to-people contacts, group activities, and various cultural events. The whole world has slowed down, mobility is limited, so we have to keep to activities that we can do alone or with family, preferably in the comfort of our own home.
What do introverts and highly sensitive people think about it?
Well, most of us admit that not much has changed for us. We are used to loneliness, we like our own company, so giving up meetings in larger groups is not burdensome for us. What's more, some introverts admit they like this new reality. We no longer feel social pressure to leave the house and spend time in company, friends do not urge us to meet with others, even the family stopped insisting on spending holidays together. So now we live according to our own preferences, only that we additionally have the permission of the environment. Because social isolation suddenly ceased to be an anomaly, and became a socially acceptable, and even supported, responsible strategy.
There are other positive effects of the epidemic in the introvert's eyes, such as the fact that there are less people on the streets, nature revives, there is more personal space in public transport (which sometimes turns out to be a myth, but that's another matter), nobody tries to approach us or talk. People are usually either afraid of illness themselves or simply respect the prevailing principles. Suddenly, it turns out that even a walk in the center of a large city can be pleasant, as can cycling or running. As long as the mask does not bother us, or the glasses do not fog, because the obligation to cover the face does not necessarily suit all introverts ;)
For many of us, the work model has also changed, because there is a lot of emphasis on remote work, if of course our profession allows us to do so. A similar situation happened to pupils and students who have been testing the remote learning model for more than a month, with greater or lesser successes. Thanks to this, some of us can finally realize our dreams about work or study from the comfort of our own home and we no longer need justification and special approvals. What's more, it may turn out that some company managers will find that such a work model is not less effective than traditional office work, thanks to which they will look more favorably at remote work even after the epidemic stops. Of course, this applies primarily to office workers, because many of us have no choice but still work in normal or even more intense mode. I am mostly thinking about healthcare professionals, or those employed in the food or transport industry.
Because we leave our houses less often, we also have more time to develop interests and hobbies beloved by introverts and sensitive people, such as reading books, watching movies, playing musical instruments, writing, drawing, online activity, gardening, walks in nature and all kinds of manual work. Many people have returned to activities for which they have been too busy for years, some are learning completely new skills. We can learn many things online now because all group activities have moved to the Internet. It doesn't sound that bad from the perspective of a person who likes to spend time with himself, right?
Each introvert is different
But the reality is not so bright for everyone. The shortcomings reported by introverts are a lack of privacy at home and the need to be with the family non-stop (mainly due to closed schools). Some of us even dream about returning to normal everyday life, where each member of the family has their own separate life and activities, so that time spent together can be pleasure, not torment. Anyway, this problem applies to everyone, not just introverts. It is now, that parental patience, marital love and the ability to live in the same house are being tested. It may sound a bit funny, but the truth is that we found ourselves in an unusual situation that is a challenge for everyone accustomed to a different lifestyle. Time will tell how many of us pass this test successfully.
People living alone are not doing any better. Even the greatest introverts accustomed to loneliness are slowly beginning to feel the lack of social contacts, are stagnant, seek online support, which, however, does not completely replace intimacy with another person. For some people, this may be the first opportunity in their lives to see that we are social beings, and hermit life is not that easy. Others complain about the need to give up their favorite hobbies, because not everything can be done at home. Many of us suffer from separation from loved ones because closed borders prevent us from traveling freely.
It is also worth noting that depression rate has increased significantly since the outburst of the pandemic. It has many causes, ranging from the economic crisis, mass layoffs and stress related to loss of income source, up to general panic, uncertainty and concern about health and life of our own and our loved ones. The situation is not improved by social isolation, loneliness, lack of outdoor activities, an empty calendar and the limited ability to plan anything for the future. All this is extremely difficult for sensitive people and introverts who, by nature, tend to analyze everything, plan, think deeply and deal with uncertainty about tomorrow less effectively. Similarly, it is difficult for us to be confronted with all the information about a pandemic and its effects that comes from all around. Theories and opinions vary, but you need a lot of self-control and sobriety of mind to build your own worldview within this all without going crazy. Because it’s not possible anymore not to worry at all about what is happening now.
A challenge for the rest of the world
Life in an epidemic seems to be extremely difficult for extroverts who are dying due to lack of interpersonal contacts. The limited amount of external stimuli means that the dopamine level in the proverbial 'lives of the party is already at record low levels, especially in the areas where quarantine rules are commonly followed. We introverts are doing very well compared to them, because the lower level of this neurotransmitter does not bother us. On the contrary, we are extremely sensitive to it, and the current situation helps us avoid the risk of over-stimulation. This is a direct answer to the doubts of many people who do not quite believe in the strengths of sensitivity or introversion - in the current situation we seem to be doing better off.
Today's reality, like everything in life, has its good and bad sided. However, it is worth looking at the current situation with a certain degree of curiosity and finding out what it is like when suddenly our introverted lifestyle becomes a general norm. Perhaps even the perception of us in society will change over a longer period of time, and people will start looking more inwards and appreciate spending time alone? It is true that the only certain thing nowadays is uncertainty, so the answers to this question will come with time. Meanwhile, I wish everyone patience, health, flexibility and openness to whatever each day brings.