As Covid-19 spreads across the globe, governments are enforcing or recommending social distancing while global entities like the World Health Organisation (WHO) stress the importance of self-isolation.
This social distancing may involve people working from home, rather than in their usual offices, schools or other locations; no longer going out to restaurants, theatres or cinemas; and avoiding busy shopping malls. All measures that are geared towards keeping a distance between people, so that the spread of the illness can be restricted.
But, for most people, these measures make for a significant change to their daily lives. Usually a large part of our lives involves social interaction - and this has been cut short very suddenly and without any preparation for how to cope. The adjustment to a more isolated reality could be harder than expected for a great number of people.
Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, loneliness had been identified as a concern for modern society. In large cities across the globe, up to 40% of people live alone, a trend that is evident increasingly among younger people. This suggests that loneliness may become a significant world problem in the years ahead. Latest studies show that loneliness can be as bad for a human being as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, so it’s really important for us to stay connected with our loved ones.
With the very necessary requirement for social distancing today, concerns are being raised about the potential mental and emotional health effects that could arise in addition to the medical issues caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. In fact, the WHO has included this as one of their mental health considerations in the time of this coronavirus outbreak.
With this in mind, experts are advising people of ways to stay connected. Just taking a walk with the dog (while we are still able to go outdoors) can help relieve the tedium and loneliness of being indoors all day. Shout or nod a greeting to someone else who is also out with their dog: just that bit of human interaction, small as it may be, is better than none.
In addition to people not being able to spend the day with their colleagues in the usual way, social isolation will impact significantly on important family events. Weddings that have been in the planning for months may not go ahead - a truly devastating decision for a couple to have to make. When it comes to funerals, they may have to be restricted to immediate family members only, but this would mean excluding best friends and former work colleagues who would definitely have wanted to pay their respects by attending the funeral.
And, if there is a newborn in the family, when will the proud grandparents be allowed to meet them? Or imagine your grandmother turns 90 and you can’t visit her or give her a hug, due to social restrictions for her good as well as yours.
These are all scenarios that raise the issue of how deeply the enforced (but necessary) social distancing of today has gone - how thoroughly its impact on our lives may be. Yet, technology may be a means of helping us to cope with these situations. Photographs are an obvious solution but today new apps are making it possible for greater levels of participation in the important family event.
Prakash Patel, a well-known figure in the digital marketing sector, has conceptualised an app with a team of experts that can allow for family and friends to get as close as possible to these family and friends occasions. “The app, called ForKeeps because it ‘Keeps Memories Forever’, is such a useful tool for recording the wonderful things about key life moments and holding those memories into the future, which allows you to create a digital album of photographs, videos (launching soon), comments and even wishes, which can be shared with anyone whom you’d like to include,” he explains.
For instance, grandparents unable to visit the newborn because of the risk of coronavirus infection to both vulnerable parties - older people and babies - can enjoy their new grandchild through photos, or watching (launching soon) the baby gurgling, crying, sleeping or being fed.
It’s really important not to forget about your mental health during this extended period of isolation. So do what you need to remain in contact with others and to participate in some way in social activity - even if it’s done virtually.
Compiled by Afika Jadezweni