VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Much has changed in our lives because of COVID-19 over the past year, and friendships and social lives are no exception.
We still can’t just text friends on a whim to grab a drink or head to a party, and big gatherings are still not allowed, although a public health order on gatherings outdoors has recently been loosened.
The whole situation has taken a toll.
“I think people are really missing friends, they’re missing connections — closer connections — with family they don’t live with,” explained Dawn Schooler, a registered clinical counsellor with Jericho Counselling. “Perhaps they’re missing celebrations like an 80th birthday, or a first birthday party, or a wedding, even a celebration of life. So those are all the things that people have been really missing over this last year.”
March 11 marked one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In the months since, Schooler says the lack of social contact has impacted people’s mental health.
“Absolutely. Very close connections between human connection, human relationships, and how we feel about ourselves, our immune system. None of us do very well when we’re isolated from other people that we care about,” she explained.
With the rise in the use of virtual means to stay connected with others, Schooler says video chats and other forms of staying connected, while apart, have been a “very good just-in-case mechanism” for people and businesses over the past year.
No replacement for in-person connection
However, she notes there’s no substitute for in-person, face-to-face contact.
“Nothing really replaces that skin-to-skin, that clinking of a glass across the table as you celebrate somebody’s milestone. The personal touch really is missing from those Zoom calls and we’re all waiting for that to come back,” Schooler told NEWS 1130, adding the pandemic has hit extroverts the hardest.
“Extroverts who live alone are among the hardest hit in this pandemic, in terms of social connections,” she said.
However, Schooler says the past 12 months have also had some positives for the introverts of the world. She says many of them have been relieved to not have to come up with excuses to miss a social event, or deal with the anxieties associated with doing so.
Many have also been seen making better decisions over the last year, Schooler explains, pointing to people who have had an opportunity to reflect on what’s really important in life.
“We haven’t had a choice about what is happening to us, but we’ve had a real choice about who we want to be in the middle of this transitional time,” she said.
As more people get vaccinated and as COVID-19 restrictions are eased, Schooler believes there will be a transitional time during which people will gradually be able to socialize again.