COVID-19: Will Some Friendships be the Unforeseen Casualties?

With social distancing the new ‘abnormal’ for relationships, at least for now, some friendships will wither, some will bloom

It’s a challenging time for everyone, with some facing far greater challenges than others.

Healthcare and other essential services workers are at the coalface of the fight against COVID-19, putting their lives at risk trying to help others stay alive. They are the true heroes of our times.

Politicians and the administrations behind them are running on quicksand, trying to roll out policy to help manage their polities through this time and planning for recovery on the other side…whenever that might come. Some are doing better than others.

(Here’s looking at certain New Zealand PM…please rule the world JA, please.)

Parents are trying to work from home while juggling normal parenting responsibilities and, for many, homeschooling children who are challenged by a world turned upside down that they are being forced to understand and adapt to. Keep up the good fight families — kids are more agile than you think and you have put up with much more trying times than this. And will again. It’s what families do, right?

Single people who are isolated at home, shut off from usual social circles, are potentially battling the loneliness of this isolation.

Of course, there are other introverts who, like me, don’t mind it one bit and are happy in their man-caves or lady-dens and who might struggle to emerge from these little COVID-19 cocoons on the other side.

True story.

The COVID-19 world is proving problematic on some level for just about every living human being — rich or poor, male or female, young or old, gay or straight — because the virus is blind to any differences when it comes to the huge upheaval and daily challenge it presents.

However, one way it does affect us all is in the way is how we manage our relationships during this time, and more specifically our friendships. While for sometime thanks to the wonders of digital devices and the interwebs we have been getting more virtual around certain aspects of our friendships, we are currently in a situation where they can for the most ONLY BE virtual. This, in and of itself, shouldn’t constitute a huge problem as we know it will pass, and so many of us already have virtual-only friendships with mates who live interstate or overseas.

It’s manageable, it’s not permanent and our friendships will survive, for the most. So, it’s not so much the isolation that will determine how friendships weather the COVID-19 storm, but in the eye of this storm, some friendships will be put to the test in ways they never have.

Why?

Because maybe we are communicating just that little bit too much. Maybe we are starting to talk about and share things we haven’t in the past. Maybe the very foundations of our friendships are starting to come under pressure from all this unparalleled chatter and revelation and sharing.

Don’t take this as some argument that we should only have friends who are as we are.

Some friendships will thrive as we reach out more often than in the past, and instead of using social media as the medium via which we communicate, we make a phone call or set up a house party or zoom chat or whatever. We will see and learn even more why we are friends with some, feel the strength of the association, wrap it around ourselves and be comforted by it.

Others…less so. These friendships will start to crack and crumble around the edges as differences arise we haven’t ever noticed before, maybe due to longer or more frequent conversations at a safe social distance, which could mean the interactions are freed of the constrictions of more subdued socially acceptable and diplomatic face-to-face communications, ironically making them less safe in terms of the solidity of the friendship.

Don’t take this as some argument that we should only have friends who are as we are. Who have the same beliefs, value systems, politics, understanding of the world and Netflix watch-lists as we do. (I’m not even joking about Netflix— just like someone’s book collection, that Netflix WL says a LOT about you. You know it’s true.)

Of course, the majority of our friends will always be more like us than not because that’s how we humans roll. We side with those who have our backs, who get us, who laugh and cry with us, who are part of our tribes. But, just as with actual tribes, not everyone is the same, and some of our friendships can and must also exist in a hot seething cauldron of difference. These connections might even be stronger than those with whom we are simpatico because these more contested friendships push us out of our comfort zones, making us reconsider the world and our views and feeling and ideas and thoughts.

Occasionally though, the differences are too great.

Or maybe it’s not so much about the differences, per se, but rather how each party to a friendship approaches these differences? And if the approaches aren’t respectful or at least somehow similar, despite the differences, these kinds of friendships are ultimately compromised and once we get to the other side of these strange and unforeseen times, they might not be strong enough to survive.

Time will tell.

Postscript: The one thing I neglected to say in this piece is to take care of your friendships during this time as much as you can, even the more fractious ones. We are all under a lot of stress at the moment, which means our friendships are too, so be kind where possible and appropriate!

Writer, editor, content dude, digital disruptor. Politics. Arts. Tech. Travel. Food. Film. The Force. Digital Nomad. Citizen of the universe. Coffee. Always.

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