This is Day 310 of our “two-week” lockdown. I remember thinking at the beginning, that by the end of March, everything will become alright and things will go back to normal. After nine long months, some of us still cling to the hope that the pandemic will end soon.
We’ve been expecting things to go back to normal for so long that we tend to forget how much we’ve changed since carelessly roaming on our cycles around the campus and watching the sunset from the MIG, sitting under the purple sky.
Change is inevitable. We knew that we were not going to be the same person after almost a year. But take a look at yourself and ask if you would’ve become the person you are now if it wasn’t for the pandemic. Do you think the absence of people around you and the reduced socialising has made you, you?
Charles Cooley proposed an interesting sociological theory: we perceive our self-identity based on how we think others see us. The theory, also known as the ‘looking-glass self’, states that part of how we view ourselves comes from our perception of how others view us. He construed that the idea of self or one’s sense of identity comes not only from our direct contemplation of oneself or one’s personal qualities but also from the examination of the way one is perceived by others in society.
If Cooley’s theory is considered correct, it means that a significant part of our self-identity is external; it stems from socialisation, that is, social interaction plays a significant role in the process of self-identification. By interacting with others, we are unknowingly shaping their sense of self, and they are also similarly influencing ours. Sometimes, the influence of other people’s opinions of us on our concept of self can be so strong that we end up internalizing those opinions as facts.
However, since March we have been pushed towards reduced social interaction in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus. So, how has receiving less social feedback changed our self-identity?
All the time we’ve spent alone during the pandemic has not necessarily had a negative impact on our personalities. Over the past few months, I’ve felt as though I’ve been getting to know myself better. I’ve had time to reflect on the things I’ve taken for granted.
A friend reported no longer feeling the need to impress or please everyone; “The absence of some social structures makes you realize how pointless they are.”
Trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people have been able to explore and understand themselves and their identities better during the lockdown. The number of people coming to terms with their gender identity over the lockdown and the times succeeding it proves how social interaction is inseparable from gender performance. The moment you are isolated from the constant promotion and expectation of gendered behavior, you have the space to question what it even means for you.
More and more people are making connections with the outside world as a way to express themselves and cope with the situation. Online users who were previously listeners or readers are turning to writers. An increase is seen in the volume of the relevant content and reading time online. In the absence of socialisation, we tend to seek alternate sources of stimulation, which allows creativity to flourish.
However, I feel that the most important change we have experienced is experiencing greater compassion and kindness. Humanity is struggling and we must do everything in our power to help one another by being more understanding, forgiving, and kind. As much as the lockdown forced us apart, it has also brought us together and will make our newfound compassion a change that lasts.