How will we tackle the pandemic of loneliness after Covid?

With technology increasingly driving us away from real life encounters, deliberate steps must be made to bring us back to each other

woman alone on a cliff top

‘In Australia those living in cities have fewer friendships and neighbourhood connections than they did 20 years ago.’ Photograph: Antonio Guillem Fernandez/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo

Thu 15 Oct 2020

It was New Year’s Eve going into 2020, and I was in a pub in Castlemaine with my friend Stu Speirs.

“What word sums up most for what you want from the year?” I asked him.

“Community,” he said, without hesitation. “A rebellion against this day and age’s individualism and individual interest. And instead an interdependence on others – and a sense of interconnectedness.”

This was all very articulate for 1am on New Year’s Eve but Stu had been thinking about this a lot. He works in event management for small communities around Australia. With the destructive fire season, he saw that it was more important than ever for people to come together and build community.

Of course no one saw what was coming for us, and how prescient the importance of community would turn out to be – but also how tested it would be by the pandemic. Obeying lockdown rules and public health orders that emphasise taking collective action, can strengthen social cohesion and limit the spread of the virus. But the nature of this collective action – isolating ourselves – seems like a cruel cosmic joke. Lockdowns, social distancing, limits on gatherings, cancellation of community sport and live music and the shutdown of public spaces means we are kept away from each other. This can result in difficulty forming and maintaining the very social bonds and resultant community spirit that will get us through the pandemic and allow us to bounce back quicker.

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2 replies

  1. My observation in Switzerland is that ‘community relations” (relations with ‘friends’) has gone down considerably over time – unrelated to the present pandemic. It may be recalled that I spent most of my life as a global nomad, coming back to Switzerland from time to time. The friends which came to my house 30 years ago now(and whom we visited at their home) hesitate. I would have to literally kidnap them to have a cup of tea in my house. What happened? I cant’ tell. Waiting for some psychologists to explain,

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