It is not always easy to evaluate the impact that an ongoing crisis has on contemporary society. Yet the Coronavirus crisis has, quite literally, changed in just about three months many of the daily routines that millions of people have followed since the end of WWII. Many scholars are calling this crisis ultimately ‘life-changing’, citing necessary ways to alter our daily lives in order to withstand what the virus is bringing onto us.
While we remember places and time spent on the outside, social distancing is forcing us to rethink many of our behaviours and choices of the past years. It might be our lack of will to go jogging outside - because the outside was always going to be there anyway - or even something as simple as going to university for a lecture.
This virus has forced upon us a redefinition of what ‘togetherness’ means, and we must now find alternative roads to interaction, affection and interpersonal closeness. That is, and will be for the coming years, the legacy of the ‘era of social distancing’ that will be studied in history books.
We decided to list at least 5 things that have changed and might stay this way for years to come. Here are 5 lifestyle changes brought by the Coronavirus crisis:
This first one is probably the hardest one to follow. Even people who prefer to be by themselves might warm up during holidays and festivities, using them as an excuse to visit relatives and friends. Not anymore! Many are now forced to use Skype, FaceTime, Messenger or other virtual means to ‘recreate’ or mimic the experience of closeness brought by festivities and celebrations.
Birthday gatherings on Zoom and other apps are gaining momentum as people are forced to stay indoors. Maria, 23, has attended three online parties since early April.
“At first it was fun,” she recalls. She even met her ex-boyfriend at one of Zoom parties and managed to get drunk and have a hangover. “But it comes with a certain sadness, because you can not be physically present with your loved ones.”
Reports claim that even Queen Elizabeth will resort to a Zoom party from the safety of the quarantine for her 94th birthday on Thursday. Members of the Royal family are expected to join, including Harry and Meghan from Los Angeles.
Changes have affected religious rituals and celebrations as well. World’s major religions have gone to unprecedented lengths and barred believers from sacred places - Pope Francis prayed to an empty St. Peter’s square, Muslim pilgrims had to cancel pilgrimages to the sacred Qaaba and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site allegedely containing the site of Christ’s burial was deserted prior to Easter celebrations.
“If we want to celebrate next Christmas and Easter together, we have to sacrifice this one time,” says Nano, member of the Evangelical-Baptist Church of Georgia, who watched the live-streamed Easter service from home. “It is a pity but we have to protect each other.” She reasons that this unique experience could inspire religious leaders to embrace technology and incorporate it in the lives of believers.
This one has become pretty much mandatory. With restrictions limiting their time outside people are forced to remain indoors. Those lazy to cook seek the comfort of fast food. But many have turned to creativity - normal meals have turned into elaborate experiments and household chores are often accompanied by dancing routines.
Mental health is no less important than maintaining physical fitness. Many people have embraced yoga and mindfulness as they seek new ways to divert their minds from the bleakness outside their homes.
“The four walls of our house become an unlikely prison.” says Stefano, quarantined in Tbilisi, thousands of miles away from his native Italy. “That is, if you choose to see them like that.“ The crisis has made him rethink what “staying home is all about.”
“We must find the passion to maintain ourselves clean and fit in under 80 square metres…or in under 40 square metres in my case!”
This came as a surprise for many. Some found new opportunities to work from home, without the hassle of commuting and wasting time at the office, while others have discovered the importance of face-to-face communications.
Nino, a practicing gynecologist is struggling. She is forced to turn to phone counseling and can not really observe how her patients are doing.
“It is a wholly new challenge,” she says, “for the first time in my professional life, I am unable to see and examine a person.” For her, going to the clinic has proven to be essential, but many office workers are facing a different reality.
“It turns out, I did not have to sit at the office for eight hours”, thinks Laura, a journalist who is working from home. “I can easily research and write in my living room.”
Education has also become virtual. Some learning facilities have adjusted fine but others lack the means to do so. For example, according to OECD data, one-quarter of the adult population in Italy reports either no prior experience with computers or very limited digital proficiency. Many professors in the country have never used computer-based teaching due to insufficient equipment and inexperience.
Younger pupils are also facing a new reality as classrooms go virtual. Nutsa, a pupil in a private school in Tbilisi, Georgia maintains that despite attempts from teachers, she and her peers fail to concentrate online.
“Sometimes teachers fail to capture our interest in person”, she says, “now imagine doing it in front of a computer.” Nutsa sees the importance of online schooling but thinks it will not be as efficient as traditional classroom meetings.
And yet the hardships of remote education could be the spark that pushes for a digitalisation and modernisation of many institutions, and some people might even rediscover the joy of studying while confined at home.
The confinement changes the way we perceive closeness, intimacy and human relationships. While Zoom parties do help to maintain friendships, keeping a healthy love life might become more difficult. As touching, kissing and hugging are not advised people go looking for new ways to be intimate with each other. The “archaic” phone sex is resurfacing alongside sexting and video cimmunications. But love in the times of Coronavirus comes at a cost as couples confined together start arguing more and even choose to end their relationships.
See also: Love in the times of Coronavirus
The time we spend alone is another, possibly a more fascinating change we are facing - we now have more alone time with ourselves and we are going to spend this time within our heads for many more months. This will, undoubtedly, force an introspective journey into all of us. Did we really like the people we were friends with? Are we satisfied with our job? Are we happy with living in our home countries? For thousands, this alone time will be an opportunity to figure out what exactly they want and how to achieve it. Would it be surprising if, after many months of this quarantine, we will see a peak of life-changing decisions from many people?
Finally, there is the looming sense of gratitude for what we used to have. Stefano, stuck far away from Italy, remembers the moments spent with his friends:
“Only a couple of months ago, I was having a petty tiff with one of my friends, regarding the fact that we were not finding time to see each other more, since we were living in distant countries.” Now he says, both of them feel a sense of overwhelming gratitude and appreciation for the days they had spent together in the last years.
“We just simply did not realise how lucky we were. Surely there’s millions like us right now who are starting to find the gratitude for previous times.”
Gratitude and appreciation goes to those workers enabling us to have a relatively smooth quarantine - medical workers in particular are risking their lives to protect those affected. So do essential workers in grocery stores and pharmacies which remain open even in the strict cases of state emergency. In the end of the article we would like to take the opportunity and thank those who work while we stay at home.
What do you think? Do you agree with our analysis or do you believe there are many more ways our lives are changing? Are the changes here to stay? Let us know!
*Illustrations taken from Dazed and NY Times